Understanding HCV

About Hepatitis C

The Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is a blood-borne virus that enters the body through direct contact with contaminated blood.

The virus attacks cells in the largest internal organ – the liver. There it multiplies, causing liver inflammation and destruction of liver cells. HCV is the leading cause for liver transplants today.

There is no cure or vaccine for Hepatitis C, but there are treatments that can reduce or stop the virus from reproducing in the body and help slow the progression of the disease.

Hepatitis C virus can be “cleared” from the body. Some infected people may clear the virus without treatment after acute infection (approximately 15 – 20% of mono-infected people). Acute infection refers to the first six months of infection, when the body develops antibodies to the new viral infection. HIV/HCV+ people have a lesser chance of viral clearance on their own during acute infection (7 – 10% success rate). For those who do not clear the virus on their own, treatment is recommended during acute infection, because the chances are much better in this early phase of infection that the virus will respond to treatment and be “cleared.”

During chronic infection (after six months and before one might progress over time to advanced liver disease, fibrosis or cirrhosis), if the virus is treated successfully, where there is a sustained virologic response (SVR), meaning the Hepatitis C viral load is undetectable six to 12 months post treatment, then the virus is considered “cleared” from the body.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C:
Sometimes None
Jaundice
Fatigue
Dark Urine
Loss of Appetite
Abdominal Pain
Nausea


How is Hepatitis C spread?

Through blood, blood related products or organs from infected donors. Hepatitis C is transmitted by contact with infected blood or items with another person’s blood on them.

Hepatitis C is easily spread by sharing drug use equipment such as needles, syringes, cotton, cookers, water and ties.

It may also be spread by crack pipes and straws used to sniff drugs.

Non-professional tattoos and body piercing can also lead to the transmission of Hepatitis C.

Sexual transmission of HCV is possible. There are a growing number of new cases reported of infection due to sexual transmission, including co-infections with HIV.

HCV is not easily spread through sex; however, sexual transmission of HCV is possible. There are a growing number of new cases reported of infection due to sexual transmission, including co-infections with HIV. In about 10% of cases, the route of infection is not known.