What You Need to Know About Hepatitis C (1:52)
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About 3.4 million Americans are currently living with hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. Over time, hepatitis C may lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis C is known as a “silent” epidemic because, in most cases, there are few symptoms until the liver becomes damaged. While antiviral medication can cure up to 95 percent of people infected with hepatitis C, this asymptomatic disease often goes undiagnosed.
Learn more about diagnosis, treatment, and ways to cope from someone who was diagnosed: Tim.
An individual can contract the hepatitis C virus when blood from someone infected with hepatitis C enters their bloodstream. Anyone who has received a blood transfusion, donor organ, or blood product before 1992 may have been infected. Those who share needles for drug use, accidental needlestick injuries, or being born to a mother with hepatitis C can put you at risk. Healthcare workers are also at an increased risk of exposure. Although it’s rare, it’s even possible to get hepatitis C by having sex with an infected person, sharing personal items like razors or toothbrushes with someone that’s infected, or getting a tattoo or body piercing with unsterilized equipment.
That can come as a surprise to people who may not have known they were at risk.
“I hadn’t been to a doctor in 10 years and I thought I’d better. [My doctor went] …through all the tests. That’s when [I] discovered [I] had hepatitis C. I had no idea I had it. [It was a] total surprise.” – Tim
After the Diagnosis
Up until recently little was known about effective treatments for hepatitis, so getting the diagnosis was especially scary.
“The doctor reviewed me, and he explained the genotypes. Understanding that cure rates are high, I felt that going through treatment was more beneficial than waiting. There are a number of communities where people are actually going through the treatments, and they share their experiences.” – Tim
Hepatitis C Treatment
When diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C, the main goal is to cure it through treatment. Hepatitis C is considered to be cured if the virus is not detected in your blood three months after completing treatment. Once hepatitis C is eliminated from your bloodstream you will be free of the virus; however, according to the CDC, getting re-infected with the disease is possible, so it’s important to avoid practices that increase the risk of infection.
“I didn’t have this unknown thing ticking away that I was afraid of. I knew that I’d conquered it and that I could focus on other things in my life.” - Tim
Living With Hepatitis C
Today, a diagnosis of hepatitis C is manageable. There is a whole support network out there for people living with the disease.
“I would tell anybody about hepatitis C that there’s nothing to be ashamed about…and it’s not something to be afraid of. Talk to your doctor.” - Tim
The CDC recommends being tested for hepatitis C if you have any of the risk factors.
Learn more about hepatitis C by visiting hepc.com.