Hepatitis C is a virus that can infect and damage the liver.
Hepatitis C is usually transmitted through blood to blood contact. Examples include:
It isn't commonly transmitted through vaginal sex, but it can be transmitted through certain types of sex which are more at risk of bleeding.
Gay or bisexual men can be more at risk of acquiring Hep C if:
During the early stage of infection there may not be any symptoms.
If symptoms do develop at this stage it is usually within the first 6 months after infection and they can be easily mistaken for another condition.
Symptoms can include:
You can only be certain you have Hepatitis if you have a test.
Some people can clear the virus at the early stage of infection. However, 4 out of 5 people will not be able to fight off the infection. This leads to a long term infection called chronic Hepatitis.
Hepatitis C can lead to problems with your liver, including scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), often years after catching the infection.
Hepatitis C can be treated with antiviral medicines designed to stop the virus from multiplying inside the body and to prevent liver damage. The sooner treatment begins after exposure to the Hepatitis C virus, the more likely it is to succeed.
If the virus is cleared with treatment, you are not immune to future infections of Hepatitis C.
If you are diagnosed with Hepatitis C, you should tell anyone who you may have had blood to blood contact with, or unprotected sex with, since you became infected. In some cases this may be hard to work out, so it is best to discuss the risks for any contacts with your doctor. They may have the virus without knowing it, so it is important for them to get tested.
There is no vaccination for Hepatitis C.
Go to a sexual health clinic if you have unusual symptoms that persist for more than a few days, or if you are worried about any types of sex which could be at risk of Hep C. You can also get tested for Hepatitis C at your GP or a drug treatment service. The clinician will take a simple blood test.
Test results are most accurate 6 to 10 weeks after exposure. However, tests for Hepatitis C often can't distinguish between recent and previous infection.
Antiviral medication usually acts to prevent a virus from multiplying.
They will be able to tell if you have symptoms of infection but not if you don’t. However it is important that you tell your partner since you may pass or have passed the infection to them.