What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver.

How does someone get Hepatitis?

Hepatitis C is much harder to catch through sex than hepatitis A or B but is becoming more common among men who have sex with men.

You can get Hepatitis C when infected blood finds its way into your bloodstream (blood-to-blood contact). This might happen through activities like fisting, double penetration, prolonged sexual activity with multiple partners.

Sharing needles is the main route of transmission.

What are the symptoms?

Following initial infection, about 8 out of 10 people do not have any symptoms.

Those who have symptoms may experience fever, tiredness, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, pale faeces (poo), joint pain and jaundice (yellowing of skin and the whites of the eyes).

If not diagnosed early and treated Hepatitis C can lead to severe liver problems like cirrhosis or liver cancer years after infection. It is important to get tested for Hepatitis C if you have been at risk.

What does a hepatitis C test involve?

To test for viral hepatitis a blood test is carried out to look for any antibodies to the virus which have been produced in response to an infection. If these are present, then you have been in contact with the virus/infected at some time.

In the case of hepatitis C, the lab will then look for the actual virus to determine if you are actively carrying the virus.

What does treatment involve?

Hepatitis C can be treated with anti-viral medications. There are different types of medications, some are taken as a tablet and others are given as injections. Current Hepatitis C medication is very effective at curing the infection but it can take weeks to months to treat, is extremely expensive, and the side effects of the medication can be unpleasant.

Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis C?

There is currently no vaccination available to prevent Hepatitis C. Prevention of Hepatitis C relies on having safer sex and not sharing needles.