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People in Africa are infected with Virus C, a viral infection that attacks the liver.

Hepatitis C is spread when blood from a person infected with the hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone else. Hepatitis C is more infectious than HIV and can last for 4 days outside the body.

How is Hepatitis C spread?

Sex without a condom. Sexual risk is heightened with sex that damages the vaginal or anal lining, or when one has another sexually transmitted disease such as HIV.

Mother-to-child transmission at birth.

Getting tattoos or body piercings with non-sterile* equipment.

Sharing of injecting drug equipment

Blood or blood product transfusions that occurred pre-1992.

Non-sterile medical or dental interventions. Non-sterile means not free from any living organisms. Things can look clean, but still be non-sterile.

What are the stages of infection?

Hepatitis C is described in terms of acute and chronic infection.

Acute refers to the first six months after infection takes place. Few people experience obvious symptoms during this phase.

Many people who get infected with hepatitis C develop a chronic (long-term) infection. Some people manage to ‘clear’ (kill) the virus during the acute stage and are free of hepatitis C afterwards.

Over time, chronic hepatitis C can cause serious health problems including liver inflammation and scarring, liver failure and even liver cancer.

How do I know if I have Hepatitis C?

Testing is the only way to be sure of your hepatitis C status. Many people with hepatitis C do not know they are infected because they do not have any symptoms. Blood tests are required to assess infection with hepatitis C.

Antibody tests are used to tell whether someone has ever been infected with hepatitis C. A positive test result does not mean you are still infected. It does not show whether you will develop chronic hepatitis C. A positive anti-body test should be followed by a molecular diagnostics test (e.g. PCR) to provide this information. The PCR test shows if you still have the virus in your body. It can also detect the amount of virus present in your blood. If the test results are positive, another test will determine the type of hepatitis C infection, known as the genotype.

The genotype test determines which of the genotypes you have. This helps to determine what kind of treatment you require.

If someone is ‘positive’ for an infectious disease like viral hepatitis, it means that a test has detected that they have the virus in their body. If someone is ‘negative’ for a disease, it means the test has not detected the virus in his or her body.

Can I be vaccinated?

No. There is currently no vaccination for hepatitis C.

Is there a cure?

Hepatitis C can be cured in the majority of people. 

It is very important to complete treatment if you start it. Not taking the medication properly can result in developing resistance to the hepatitis C treatment medications.

If cured, it is possible to become re-infected, so it is important to prevent future infection.