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Hepatitis C

What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C (HCV) is a liver disease caused by a virus. The HCV infection is the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States; approximately 3.2 million persons are chronically infected. HCV can cause inflammation in the liver. Inflammation in the liver results in swelling and can cause the liver to not work properly. The liver is needed to "clean" our blood of normal byproducts which are non-toxic in very low doses, but can become toxic if not processed appropriately.

What are the symptoms?

Most people infected have no initial signs or symptoms. Among the possible symptoms are jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), fatigue, stomach pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and dark urine.

How is Hepatitis C treated?

HCV positive persons should be evaluated by their doctor for liver disease. There are drugs available for the treatment of persons with chronic hepatitis C. Drinking alcohol can make your liver disease worse.

How do people catch this disease?

The transmission of hepatitis C happens when blood or body fluids from an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected. HCV is spread through sharing needles when "shooting" drugs, through needle sticks or sharp exposures on the job, from an infected mother to her baby during birth, or sexual transmission. In many causes the cause of the exposure is unclear.

What can be done to stop the spread of this disease?

There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C.

Do not shoot drugs; if you shoot drugs, stop and get into a treatment program; if you can't stop, never share needles, syringes, water, or "works", and get vaccinated against hepatitis A & B.

Do not share personal care items that might have blood on them (razors, toothbrushes).

If you are a health care or public safety worker, always follow universal precautions and safely handle needles and other sharps; get vaccinated against hepatitis B. Consider the risks if you are thinking about getting a tattoo or body piercing. You might get infected if the tools have someone else's blood on them or if the artist or person doing the piercing does not follow good health practices.
HCV can be spread by sex. If you are having sex with more than one steady sex partner, use latex condoms correctly and every time to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. You should also get vaccinated against hepatitis B.

If you are HCV positive, do not donate blood, organs, or tissue.

References and Additional Information

SC DHEC Information on Viral Hepatitis