Hepatitis C

Last updated: May 30, 2018


What is hepatitis C?

It is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

How do you get it?

Hepatitis C is most often spread by exposure to infected blood, by sharing needles or “works”, and from blood products or transfusions received before 1992. The virus can also be spread by contact with other body fluids such as semen and menstrual blood.

Who is at risk of having hepatitis C?

  • Drug users who share needles (syringes or works), even if you experimented only a few times several years ago
  • Drug users who share straws for snorting
  • People who received blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992
  • Kidney dialysis patients
  • People exposed to infected blood
  • People who have unprotected sex (oral, anal or vaginal) with someone who is infected with the HCV virus
  • People born between 1945 and 1965
  • Determine if you’re at risk for hepatitis by completing a risk assessment.
  • See Know More About Hepatitis

Many people infected with hepatitis C have no symptoms until the liver is damaged.

It may take months to years from the time of exposure until a person has an onset of symptoms.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Urine that is dark in color

Hepatitis C is the leading cause for liver transplants.

How to keep from getting hepatitis C:

  • Do not share needles for injecting or straws for snorting drugs.
  • Make sure anything used for piercing and/or tattooing is used only one time on only one person or is sterilized before using again.
  • Do not use items that may have someone else’s blood on them, such as razors and toothbrushes.
  • Use latex condoms (rubbers) every time you have sex.
  • Those who have contact with blood and body fluids in their work environment should use standard precautions for prevention of transmission of any communicable disease.

There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but it is recommended that people with hepatitis C be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.

There is treatment for certain types of hepatitis C. If you had a blood transfusion before 1992 or if you ever shared needles with someone, let your doctor know. You may need to be tested and treated.

The Anne Arundel County Department of Health offers free hepatitis C testing to individuals with certain risk factors. For more information, or to see if you qualify for hepatitis C testing, call 410-222-7382.

Additional Information:

Viral Hepatitis Clinical Trial Resources:

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