Living with Chronic Hepatitis C*
Almost 4 million Americans have been infected with the hepatitis C virus. This information will help you better understand what hepatitis C is, how you may have gotten it, what treatments are available and what you can do toprevent passing it to others.
WHAT IS HEPATITIS C?
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is found in the blood of persons who have this disease. The infection is spread by contact with the blood of an infected person.
HOW SERIOUS IS HEPATITIS C?
Hepatitis C is serious for some persons, but not for others. Most persons who get hepatitis C carry the virus for the rest of their lives. Most of these persons have some liver damage, but many do not feel sick from the disease. Some persons with liver damage due to hepatitis C may develop cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and liver failure, which may take many years to develop. Others have no long-term effects.
HOW COULD I HAVE GOTTEN HEPATITIS C?
HCV is spread primarily by exposure to human blood. You may have gotten hepatitis C if:
WHAT CAN I DO NOW THAT MY HEPATITIS C TEST IS POSITIVE?
Contact your doctor. Additional tests may be needed to check your diagnosis and to see if you have liver damage.
IF YOU USE OR INJECT STREET DRUGS:
IF YOU ARE HAVING SEX, BUT NOT WITH ONE STEADY PARTNER:
WHAT IF I DONšT FEEL SICK?
Many persons with chronic (long-term) hepatitis C have no symptoms and feel well, but should still see their doctor. For some persons, the most common symptom is extreme tiredness.
HOW CAN I TAKE CARE OF MY LIVER?
IS THERE TREATMENT FOR HEPATITIS C?
Drugs are licensed for the treatment of persons with chronic hepatitis C. Combination drug therapy, using pegylated interferon and ribavirin, can get rid of the virus in up to 5 out of 10 persons with genotype 1, the most common genotype in the U.S. and 8 out of 10 persons with genotype 2 or 3. You should check with your doctor to see if treatment might help you.
A person who has hepatitis C can still get other types of viral hepatitis, such as hepatitis A or hepatitis B.
WHAT IF I AM PREGNANT?
About five out of every 100 infants born to HCV infected women become infected. This occurs at the time of birth, and there is no treatment that can prevent this from happening. However, infants infected with HCV at the time of birth seem to do very well in the first few years of life. More studies are needed to find out if these infants will have problems from the infection as they grow older.
CAN I WORK OR GO TO SCHOOL WITH HEPATITIS C
Persons should not be excluded from work, school, play, child-care, or other settings on the basis of their HCV infection status.
HEPATITIS C IS NOT SPREAD BY:
HOW CAN I PREVENT SPREADING HCV TO OTHERS?
*Based on information published by the Centers for Disease Control.
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