Communicable Diseases - Hepatitis C

Communicable Disease Prevention and Control

Hepatitis C - Blood-Borne Diseases

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by a virus.  This virus is not spread by casual contact.  Between 50% and 80% of people who are infected with Hepatitis C will go on to carry the virus for the rest of their lives. Up to 25% of these carriers may develop cirrhosis or possibly liver cancer.

How is Hepatitis C transmitted?

Hepatitis C is spread by exposure to blood and body fluids.  The virus is transmitted primarily by sharing needles. It can also be spread by receiving a transfusion or blood products, and having sex with someone who has Hepatitis C, although both are rare.  Blood products have been tested for Hepatitis C since 1990, so the risk of receiving hepatitis C from a transfusion is very low.

Individuals with Hepatitis C can spread the virus starting about one week before they have symptoms through the entire time they have the disease.

What are the symptoms?

Many people with Hepatitis C have no symptoms.  Others may experience:

  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)

What is the treatment?

People with Hepatitis C need rest and a proper diet.   Some people need to be hospitalized, and some will need to take a medication prescribed by their doctor.  Alcohol should be avoided.  Talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication.

Ask your doctor about immunization against Hepatitis A and B.

How can Hepatitis C be prevented?

  • Practice safer sex.
  • Do not share needles, razors, toothbrushes, sexual toys, etc.
  • Clean up spills of blood of an infected person with a 1:10 solution of household bleach.
  • Use only professional tattoo artists and body piercing artists working in legitimate, reputable salons.

 People with the hepatitis C virus should tell their doctors, dentists, dental hygienists and all of their sexual partners that they are infected.  People with hepatitis C should not donate blood, organs or semen.