Hepatitis C is spread by direct blood-to-blood contact. For this reason, it is difficult to get or give hepatitis C unless there is blood transfusion involved.
Routes of spread
The most common way that people get hepatitis C is from sharing needles and anything else that is used to inject drugs, hormones, steroids, vitamins or any other substance that is injected into the body.
Getting hepatitis C by having sex isn’t very common, but it could happen if someone engages in risky behavior – especially “rough sex” or other sexual practices that involve blood. Hepatitis C is also easier to spread while a woman is having her periods.
Another way that many people got hepatitis C is from having a blood transfusion. This can include having an operation that required someone to receive blood. Nowadays this route of spread has been virtually eliminated by regular screening for Hepatitis C before transfusing the blood / blood product.
Hepatitis C does not spread by sneezing, hugging, breastfeeding, sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses.
– Do not share needles or works (cottons, cookers, ties) used to inject drugs, hormones, steroids and vitamins. Do not even share the water. Wash hands before injecting.
– Cover any open cuts or wounds.
– Sexual transmission is low, but the use of condoms and barriers will help reduce the risk even more.
– A mother can transmit hepatitis C to her baby during pregnancy or birth, but this doesn’t happen very often.
– Do not share any straws to snort drugs, or pipes to smoke crack.
– Do not share any personal hygiene items such as razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers or piercedearrings. Cover personal items and keep them separate from other people you live with.
– Make sure tattoo and piercing equipment is sterile.
HCV viral load
Genotypes: The types of Hepatitis C
There are six different kinds of hepatitis C. These different kinds of hepatitis C are called genotypes and are numbered 1 to 6. The genotype test is a blood test. Some genotypes are easier to treat with HCV medications. For example, genotype 1 is a little harder to treat than genotypes 2 or 3.
The most common symptom people with hepatitis C say they have is feeling tired a lot (fatigue). Other symptoms people with hepatitis C report are feeling sick, and aches and pains in their muscles, joints and tummy. Some have fevers and may sweat in their sleep. Others feel depressed or worried all the time.
There are other symptoms that people can have if their liver is really damaged and scarred. The term for this condition is called cirrhosis. When you develop cirrhosis the liver cannot perform many of its important functions. There will be many warning signs and symptoms that your doctor will need to know about. For this reason it is important to have regular check-ups with your doctor to keep an eye on you more closely and treat you for some of the symptoms. Click here to read more about cirrhosis. (Link to the cirrhosis section)
When the hepatitis C virus gets into the liver it can irritate it and cause it to become inflamed like a sore. The inflammation can lead to the liver becoming scarred, and for a few people hepatitis C can lead to a form of cancer of the liver.
About 1-3 people out of the 100 people who have chronic hepatitis C will get liver cancer.
The important point to remember is that hepatitis C usually takes a long time to damage the liver and many people will never get sick from hepatitis C.
The decision to treat should be made by you and your doctor based on how hepatitis C is affecting you. You will need to know your viral load, genotype and how much your liver is damaged. The good news is that there are medicines to treat hepatitis C that can get rid of the virus in up to about 70% (7 out of 10 people) of the people who have genotype 1. For people with genotypes 2 or 3, treatment works for about 70-90% (7 to 9 people out of 10). However, treatment is not easy and the decision is a difficult one for most people.
There are three medicines (called combination therapy) to treat hepatitis C – interferon, ribavirin and a protease inhibitor. HCV is often treated with a combination of pegylated (peg-alated) interferon and ribavirin for people with genotypes 2 and 3 and the triple combination of pegylated interferon, ribavirin, and an HCV protease inhibitor for people with HCV genotype 1. However many patients cannot tolerate these medicines and have to discontinue treatment midway.
Liver Transplant for Hepatitis C
Sometimes it might be necessary to go in for liver transplant if the disease is chronic liver failure or cirrhosis or there is acute liver failure.