Hepatitis C often has no symptoms until serious liver damage has occurred. Getting tested is the only way to know if you have hepatitis C. All adults should get tested. Talk to your doctor – it could save your life.
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function may be affected. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications and certain medical conditions can cause hepatitis.
Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common types of hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Although all types of viral hepatitis cause similar symptoms, they are spread in different ways, have different treatments, and some are more serious than others.
All adults, pregnant people and people with risk factors should get tested for hepatitis C. Most people who get infected with hepatitis C virus develop a chronic, lifelong infection. Left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death. People can live without symptoms or feeling sick, so testing is the only way to know whether you have hepatitis C. Getting tested is important to find out whether you’re infected so you can get lifesaving treatment to cure hepatitis C.
How is hepatitis C spread?
The hepatitis C virus is usually spread when someone comes into contact with blood from an infected person. This can happen through:
- Sharing drug injection equipment. Today, most people become infected with hepatitis C by sharing needles, syringes, or any other equipment used to prepare and inject drugs.
- Birth. Approximately 6% of infants born to infected mothers will get hepatitis C.
- Healthcare exposures. Although uncommon, people can become infected when healthcare professionals do not follow the proper steps needed to prevent the spread of bloodborne infections.
- Sex with an infected person. While uncommon, hepatitis C can spread during sex, though it has been reported more often among men who have sex with men.
- Unregulated tattoos or body piercings. Hepatitis C can spread when getting tattoos or body piercings in unlicensed facilities, informal settings or with non-sterile instruments.
- Sharing personal items. People can get infected from sharing glucose monitors, razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes and other items that may have come into contact with infected blood, even in amounts too small to see.
- Blood transfusions and organ transplants. Before widespread screening of the blood supply in 1992, hepatitis C was also spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
Call your provider, or the Malheur County Health Department to schedule a test for hepatitis C. There are treatments available, which lead to cures.