What is hepatitis?
“Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
What is the difference between Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. It results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.”
How is Hepatitis C spread?
Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. People can become infected with the Hepatitis C virus during such activities as
- Sharing of drug apparatus
- Being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C
- While less likely it can be transmitted through toiletry items or having sexual contact with a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus
Can you get Hepatitis C by getting a tattoo or piercing?
Yes, if the equipment is not properly sterilized or proper procedures are not followed.
Who is at risk for Hepatitis C?
Some people are at increased risk for Hepatitis C, including:
- Hemodialysis patients or persons who spent many years on dialysis for kidney failure
- People who received body piercing or tattoos done with non-sterile instruments
- HIV-infected persons
- Children born to mothers infected with the Hepatitis C virus
Can a person get Hepatitis C from a mosquito or other insect bite?
Hepatitis C virus has not been shown to be transmitted by mosquitoes or other insects.
Can I donate blood, organs, or semen if I have Hepatitis C?
No, if you ever tested positive for the Hepatitis C virus (or Hepatitis B virus), experts recommend never donating blood or organs because this can spread the infection to the recipient.
What are the symptoms of acute Hepatitis C?
Approximately 70%–80% of people with acute Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. Some people, however, can have mild to severe symptoms soon after being infected, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or eyes)
How soon after exposure to Hepatitis C do symptoms appear?
If symptoms occur, the average time is 6–7 weeks after exposure, but this can range from 2 weeks to 6 months. However, many people infected with the Hepatitis C virus do not develop symptoms.
Can a person spread Hepatitis C without having symptoms?
Yes, even if a person with Hepatitis C has no symptoms, he or she can still spread the virus to others.
Is it possible to have Hepatitis C and not know it?
Yes, many people who are infected with the Hepatitis C virus do not know they are infected because they do not look or feel sick.
What are the symptoms of chronic Hepatitis C?
Most people with chronic Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. However, if a person has been infected for many years, his or her liver may be damaged. In many cases, there are no symptoms of the disease until liver problems have developed.
What are the long-term effects of Hepatitis C?
75% of people who have Hepatitis C could potentially develop chronic liver disease. It is rare, but in extreme cases it can cause death from cirrhosis or liver cancer.