Hepatitis C (HCV)

Description, causes, prevention, treatment and medicines

What is HCV?

A liver illness caused by the hep C virus. Most people don’t clear the virus and, unless successfully treated, have the illness for life.
The illness can cause liver problems.

Window period of Hepatitis C

(the time between infection and the illness showing up in blood tests)

2 weeks (PCR test).
12 weeks (antibody test).
8 weeks (PCR test for babies).

What Hepatitis C is transmitted by?

  • Blood-to-blood contact (see left).
  • Mother to baby.

Things which put people at risk of HCV

  • Sharing fits and equipment when injecting drugs.
  • Tattooing or body piercing with contaminated equipment.
  • Having a needlestick injury.
  • Receiving blood products before February 1990.
  • Medical procedures in developing countries.

Symptoms in short term infection

Often no symptoms, but if they do appear, they are like having a mild flu.
A small number of people may have hep B-like symptoms (see left).

Symptoms in long term infection

Fatigue, nausea, muscle aches and pains or abdominal discomfort.

Treatment

From 1 March 2016, direct acting antiviral treatments (for genotypes 1, 2 and 3). Sovaldi taken with pegylated interferon and ribavirin combo treatment (for genotypes 4 and 6).

Vaccine

None available.

Prevention

  • Do not share fits or other equipment when injecting drugs.
  • Avoid other blood-to-blood contact.
  • Avoid backyard tatooists and piercers. Use shops that follow proper sterile procedures.
  • Avoid needlestick injuries.
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