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WHAT IS IT?

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus. Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. For some people, hepatitis C is a short-term illness but for 70%–85% of people who become infected with Hepatitis C, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease than can result in long-term health problems, even death. The majority of infected persons might not be aware of their infection because they are not clinically ill.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Approximately 70%–80% of people with acute Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. Some people, however, can have mild to severe symptoms soon after being infected, including:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Dark Urine
  • Vomiting
  • Joint Pain
  • Jaundice
  • Clay-Colored Bowel

If symptoms occur, the average time is 6–7 weeks after exposure, but this can range from 2 weeks to 6 months.

HOW CAN I PREVENT CONTRACTING THIS DISEASE?

Currently there is no vaccination for Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is spread via contact with an infected person’s blood. Methods to prevent Hepatitis C infection are:

  • Practicing safe sex using protection
  • Avoid sharing needles or syringes
  • Avoid sharing personal items like razors and toothbrushes.
  • Do not get tattoos or piercings at unlicensed facilities
  • Wearing gloves and using a bleach solution to clean any blood spills
  • CDC recommends that HCV-positive mothers with nipples and/or surrounding areola that are cracked and bleeding, should stop nursing temporarily until they are fully healed.

It is possible to cure a person of Hepatitis C with current treatments. A complete list of approved treatments can be found at the Food and Drug Administration website. A person who has been infected with Hepatitis C can seek further treatment with a gastroenterologist, hepatologist, or other specialists who can create a treatment plan specific to a person’s genotype of Hepatitis C.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

HEP C poster
Hepatitis C Patient Assistance Programs

http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/index.htm
http://dph.georgia.gov/hepatitis-c

For more information about immunizations, visit our Immunizations page.

For more information about travel health vaccines, visit our Travel Clinic page.

References:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Accessed 6/2016
Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).  Accessed 6/2016