Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus
and is easily transmitted through contact with infected blood.
You may not know you have it but if you are in one of the following groups,
you may be at risk and should have a blood test. Besides the regular blood test conducted
by a physician or a certified lab, see below for a home test kit which is approved by
the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).
have ever been on long-term kidney dialysis
Note that there are a certain percentage of cases for which the precipitating cause has not been determined.
What You Should Know In Any Case
Since hepatitis C is transmitted through contact with the blood of an individual who is
infected, there are certain precautions which should be taken which will protect
First, the activities which are NOT considered to be a risk.
In general, it is generally accepted that you can not get the disease through
everyday contact between individuals, intimate contact (most sexual contact, nursing of baby, kissing, holding hands, sneezing,
hugging, coughing, sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, food or water, casual contact and
food and beverage handling, as well as living in constant contact. None of the above appear to cause transmission of hepatitis C.
However, any activity which causes the transfer of blood from one person to the other
(even in very small amounts) should be avoided - sharing toothbrushes, shaving gear, pierced earrings, drug sniffing apparatus, scissors, nail clippers, etc. should be avoided.
Do not use unsteralized needles (tattooing, body piercing) and be sure good health practices (washing hands, using disposable gloves) are followed by person doing it. In drug use, do not share needles, syringes, water, or "works", etc.
Individuals who come into contact with blood as part of their occupation (first responders, health care workers, etc.) should take extra
precautions, but current evidence does not suggest that this group is normally at a substantially
higher risk than other segment of the population although vaccination against B is advised. Note: there is no vaccination against hepatitis C.
If you think that you have hepatitis C, protect yourself by not drinking alcohol and get a test.
A test will also indicate if you have liver problems, and how to avoid causing more harm to your liver,
There is no vaccine against hepatitis C but there are several drugs which according to the U.S. Center for Disease control can, when used in combination, remove the virus for about 30-40% of infected individuals.
If you have more than one steady relationship, get vaccinated for hepatitis B. Also get a vaccination against hepatitis A to further protect your liver. In any case, use safe sex, both to protect yourself from A and B, and to protect the other person.
Do not take over-the-counter drugs without first consulting your health care provider since there are some medications which have ingredients harmful to a potentially damaged liver.
If you think or know that you have hepatitis, to repeat above, do not let others borrow anything of yours which may
have traces of blood - shaving equipment, toothbrush, needles, pierced earrings (this should not be done in any case). Keep covered any cuts or sores you may have. Use safe sex methods if you have more than one permanent relationship. Do not donate blood, organs or tissue.
Pregnancy does not have to be avoided since only 5% of children, of mothers with hepatitis C, contract the disease unavoidably at the time of birth. And in many instances, the child's immune system
gets rid of it within a two year period. However, the child should be tested at the end of that period just to be sure that it is not still carrying the virus. Breast feeding is considered safe.
The U.S. CDC indicates that persons should not be excluded from work, school, play, child-care or other settings on the basis of their infection status.
Get A Test
If you fall into one of the above groups or think you may have contracted it, contact your health care provider and request to
be tested for hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is not yet a test which is automatically given. Do not donate blood to test whether or not you
have the disease. There are often no definitive signs or symptoms of the disease. Check out the NIDDK site below for a list of possible symptoms when
the disease becomes severe or cirrhosis has developed. A home test, authorized by the FDA, may be used as a first step. The home test site offers a self administered and confidential questionnaire which you
can take to help you make the decision as to whether or not to take the test.
Check out the following for clinical symptoms and signs.
When To Test
The virus incubation period is from 2 weeks to 6 months from the time of exposure. Therefore, if you receive a not infected result before the end of the period, you cannot be sure that you are clear of the disease.
Check the NIDDK site below for information on the sensitivity of different tests.
If you decide to take the home test, they have the following statement: "...your sample is tested with an Enzyme-Linked Immunoassay (ELISA). In some cases, a more specific test called Recombinant Immunoblot Assay (RIBA) may also be used to determine your final result.
It can take up to six months for your blood to develop antibodies to the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C CheckSM Test Service may not detect more recent infections. We recommend you take the test six months or more AFTER you have been exposed to hepatitis C virus."
Excerpts from several authoritative sources:
What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
American Liver Foundation
Hepatitis C is a slowly progressing disease that may gradually advance over
time and can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death... One third of [those infected] do not
know that they are infected with the hepatitis C virus. However, when symptoms do occur
with hepatitis C, they are usually mild and intermittent, with the most commonly reported
being fatigue, abdominal pain, and fever.
Most new cases of hepatitis C occur in young adults, aged 25 to 40, who may not learn for
years or even decades that they are infected. Undiagnosed, they risk serious liver damage
and may unknowingly infect others. Once cirrhosis and the other complications of
hepatitis C set in, the symptoms of the disease are much more severe and, in some cases,
Hepatitis C is an emerging infectious disease in this country. Each year, up to 10,000
people die as a result of the complications of hepatitis C. Hepatitis C, accompanied by
cirrhosis and liver failure, is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the United
States. It is estimated that, without improved prevention and intervention, the death
rate associated with hepatitis C likely will triple in the next 20 years.
The test kit
Manufactured by Home Access Health Corporation, the test kit is an FDA-approved,
at-home test for hepatitis C. With the easy-to-use test, a person collects a small
finger-stick blood sample and mails it for processing. A call to a toll-free number using a personal identification number
guaranteeing confidentiality, gives results within 10 business days. On home page, click on our tests and then on hepatitis C.
Also available is a confidential risk assessment test of 8 questions to determine if it is probable that you may have hepatitis C to help you make the decision as to whether or not to order the home test.
Hepatitis C - Links to index
Hepatitis C links
The Hepatitis Information Network (Canadian)
International as well as country links to papers, news, research results, conferences, advances in treatment, etc. as well as general information on Hepatitis C (also Hepatitis General)
Hepatitis C in English and German
One of the best sites with many links, recent studies, individual's stories, very impressive archive of abstracts of English articles which are also translated into German, patient experiences, alternatives, literature, liver transplant info, Hepatitis Art, forum
For a very easy to read discussion on most topics: Are you positive?
History, diagnosis, definitions, research, prevention, HCV & other diseases,
symptoms, Patients talk, links, alternative medicine & nutrition,
Centers/Institutes/Labs, Societies, Orgs
For listing of Links http://www.hepatitis-c.de/linkse.htm
Medlineplus Health Information - a service of the National Library of Medicine
Covers many topics including latest news, research, overviews, treatments, etc. Includes links in Spanish
hepatitis-central Over 2,000
pages about Hepatitis and Hepatitis C.
Combines support plus bulletin boards and recommendations on alternatives, support groups, symptoms & side effects
Hepatitis C - An Epidemic For Everyone
Sponsored by the C. Everett Koop Institute at Dartmouth College and one of the most well thought out sites on the net.
Complete source including videos by those with Hepatitis C and campaigns, full political action links, and what is being done
to alert the public and to find a vaccine, expert sites, research centers, patient support
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
Chronic Hepatitis C: Current Disease Management
Risk Factors and Transmission, Clinical Symptoms and Signs, Serologic Tests, Liver Biopsy, Immunostaining,
Diagnosis, Treatment, The Future of Hepatitis C Research, Selected Review Articles and References
Hepatitis Foundation International
English French Italian Portuguese Spanish
Hep C Connection
General links, U.S. support groups, newsletter, and emphasis on Colorado (counseling, employment, health care, insurance, legal help, transportation, etc.
National Hepatitis C Coalition, Inc.
In home page, input the word hepatitis into Quick Search at the top to receive all information contained on A B and C.
Study of First Responders to index
Summary of studies regarding first responders