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- Hepatitis C infection (HCV) facts
- What is hepatitis C infection, and how many people are infected?
- What is the hepatitis C virus?
- What are the symptoms of hepatitis C infection?
- What is the contagious period for hepatitis C?
- What is the incubation period for hepatitis C?
- How long does it take for symptoms to appear after contracting hepatitis C?
- How is hepatitis C spread?
- Can hepatitis C infection affect other organs besides the liver?
- Who is at high risk and should be tested for hepatitis C infection?
- What type of doctor treats hepatitis C?
- How is hepatitis C diagnosed?
- Liver biopsy and non-invasive tests for hepatitis C
- What medications cure hepatitis C infection?
- What are the treatment guidelines for hepatitis C?
- What is the treatment for people with acute hepatitis C infection?
- What are the side effects of treatments for hepatitis C infection?
- What about liver transplantation for a person with hepatitis C?
- How is monitoring done after treatment for hepatitis C?
- What home remedies are available for hepatitis C?
- What are the complications of undiagnosed hepatitis C?
- Can hepatitis C be prevented?
- What is the prognosis of hepatitis C?
- What is the current research and what is in the future for hepatitis C?
Quick GuideHepatitis C (Hep C) Symptoms and Treatment
What is the contagious period for hepatitis C?
Because hepatitis C is transmitted by exposure to blood, there is no specific period of contagiousness. If a person develops chronic hepatitis C, their blood carries the virus and is contagious to others for their entire life, unless the person is cured of their hepatitis C.
What is the incubation period for hepatitis C?
This is hard to say for certain what the incubation period for hepatitis C is because most people who are infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms early in the course of the infection. Those who develop symptoms early after getting infected (6 to 10 weeks) experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms that may not prompt a visit to the doctor.
How long does it take for symptoms to appear after contracting hepatitis C?
This is hard to say for certain because most people who are infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms early in the course of the infection. Those who develop symptoms early after getting infected (6 to 10 weeks) experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms that may not prompt a visit to the doctor.
How is hepatitis C spread?
- Hepatitis C (hepatitis C virus, or HCV) is spread by exposure to infected blood.
- The most common way of getting hepatitis C is from contaminated blood on needles shared by IV drug users.
- Accidental needle-sticks in healthcare workers also have transmitted the virus. The average risk of getting hepatitis C infection from a stick with a contaminated needle is 1.8%.
- Before 1992, some people acquired the hepatitis C infection from blood transfusions or blood products. Since 1992, all blood products have been screened for hepatitis C, and cases of hepatitis C due to blood transfusion now are extremely rare.
- Hepatitis C infection also can be passed from mother to unborn child. Approximately 4% of children born to mothers infected with hepatitis C become infected.
- Hepatitis C is not transmitted by breast-milk. However, nipples may crack and bleed during the first few weeks until the nipples are adapted to nursing, and the infant may be exposed to infected blood. If this occurs, breastfeeding should stop, and milk production can be maintained by pumping the milk and discarding it until healed.
- A very small number of cases of hepatitis C are transmitted through sexual intercourse. The risk of transmission of hepatitis C from an infected individual to a non-infected spouse or sexual partner without the use of condoms over a lifetime has been estimated to be between 1% and 4%.
- Hepatitis C is not transmitted by casual contact, kissing, coughing, sneezing, or sharing eating utensils. There is no transmission by bug bites. However, because of the potential for blood exposure, members of the household are advised not to share shaving razors, nail clippers, or toothbrushes.
- Poor infection control practices during tattooing and body piercing potentially can lead to spread of infection. This may occur in prison or nonprofessional situations, but it has not been reported in licensed, commercial tattooing facilities where it has been studied.
- There have been some outbreaks of hepatitis C when instruments exposed to blood have been re-used without adequate cleaning and sterilization between patients.
- Hepatitis C can be transmitted from an organ donor to an organ recipient. Donors
of organs are tested for hepatitis C.
- If the donor who provides the organ is infected with hepatitis C, it is offered to a recipient who also is infected with hepatitis C.
- For kidney transplant recipients, however, this does not seem to affect long-term outcome after transplantation.
- For liver transplant recipients who have hepatitis C and receive an organ from a person who is not infected with hepatitis C, the transplanted organ is expected to become infected within a few weeks. Fortunately newer medications are allowing successful treatment of hepatitis C after transplants, and this area of medicine continues to evolve.