Hepatitis C (HCV or Hep C) is a bloodborne virus that often shows no symptoms, and symptoms may not appear until the liver is severely damaged many years later. This can result in a late diagnosis and failure to receive the appropriate treatment.
- Muscle aches
- Feeling tired all the time
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vominting
The only way to know for certain if these symptoms are caused by Hep C is to get tested.
Who is at risk and who needs testing?
The Hepatitis C virus is spread through blood-to-blood contact. Some ways the infection can be spread include:
- Sharing unsterilised needles
- Blood transfusion before 1991 or following receipt of blood products (such as clotting factor) before 1986 in the UK
- Medical or dental treatment abroad in unsterile conditions
- Tattooing or piercing when undertaken with unsterile equipment
- unprotected sex - although this is rare unless there are opportunities for blood - to - blood contact during sex
- Vertical transmission from a pregnant woman to her unborn child - although this only occurs in around 6% of cases if the mother is HIV negative
In the UK, most Hepatitis C infections accur in people who inject drugs or have injected them in the past. It is estimated that around half of those who inject drugs have the infection.
Finding the undiagnosed
Because there are large numbers of people who may be infected with Hepatitis but are unaware, people are invited to take a quick quiz www.heptrust.org.uk/quiz to find out whether they might have been exposed to the Hepatitis C virus and should seek a test.
Hepatitis C is usually diagnosed using two blood tests: the antibody test and the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test. The results usually come back within two weeks.
New NICE approved direct acting antiviral (DAA) drugs for treatment are now being rolled out in accordance with national recommendations. These new drugs offer a fast and effective cure to the vast majority who receive them, without many of the complications associated with previous treatments.