Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is found in the blood of persons who have this infection. 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 needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs, needle-stick injuries in health care settings, or being born to a pregnant person who has hepatitis C infection. Less commonly, a person can also get hepatitis C virus infection through sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another person’s blood, such as razors or toothbrushes or having sexual contact with a person infected with the hepatitis C virus. Having HIV or a sexually transmitted disease increases the risk of getting hepatitis C through unprotected sex.
How serious is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis C virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a lifelong illness. Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.” Acute Hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease than can result in long-term health problems, or even death.
What can I do if my hepatitis C test is positive?
Contact your doctor, as additional testing may be needed to confirm a diagnosis, to verify if you have liver damage, and for consideration of any treatment. For most people, hepatitis C can now be cured in as little as 8-12 weeks with limited side effects. National guidelines recommend hepatitis C treatment for nearly everyone with hepatitis C, including people who inject drugs and people in recovery. Additionally, if confirmed, you would be counseled on ways to care for your liver and prevent spreading HCV to others.
Hepatitis C, Fact Sheets (CDC, 2020)
Hepatitis C Frequently Asked Questions (CDC)
Hepatitis ABC Table (CDC) (PDF)
Hepatitis C Basics for People Who Use Drugs (Harm Reduction Coalition, 2016)
Drug User Healthcare Access Videos (Los Angeles Community Health Project, 2016)
Your Medicare Coverage: Hepatitis C Screening
Hepatitis C & Injection Drug Use (CDC, 2016) (PDF)
People Coinfected with HIV and Viral Hepatitis (CDC)
Hepatitis Fact Sheet for Gay and Bisexual Men (CDC, 2013) (PDF)
Take Action Against Hepatitis C: For People in Recovery From Mental Illness or Addiction (SAMHSA, 2015)
Infographic: Hepatitis C Trends in California (2016) (PDF)
Infographic: Hepatitis C and Opioid Use Rates Among Young Adults in California (PDF)
Infographic: Hepatitis C in Youth (2018) (PDF)
Have You Ever Injected Drugs? What You Need to Know About Hepatitis C
How Does Hepatitis C Hurt Your Liver? (WebMD)
Hepatitis and the Liver (VA)
The Power of a Cure (End Hep C San Francisco)