What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Viral hepatitis is caused by several different viruses, including Hepatitis A, B, and C viruses. Hepatitis A can cause short-term viral hepatitis. Hepatitis B and C viruses can cause short-term and chronic hepatitis, which may have detrimental effects to the liver.

What are the symptoms of viral hepatitis?

Not everyone develops symptoms. Possible symptoms can include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eye)
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Low grade fever
  • Headache

What is chronic hepatitis?

Those unable to clear the Hepatitis B or C virus will develop chronic hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis left untreated will remain a lifelong infection causing damage to the liver. This damage prevents the liver from functioning properly, this can include a decreased ability to process nutrients, filter blood, and fight infection. Chronic hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.

How is this virus spread?

Hepatitis C is spreads when blood from an infected person enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can occur through sharing contaminated needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs, or receiving blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992. Hepatitis C can spread less commonly through birth to infected mother, sexual contact with an infected mother, unregulated tattooing, needlestick exposures of health care workers.

Who should get tested for Hepatitis C?

CDC guidelines recommends all adults get tested at least once during their lifetime and all pregnant women get tested during every pregnancy.

A one-time test is recommended, regardless of age or disease prevalence, for people with certain risk factors:

  • People with HIV
  • People who ever injected or shared needles, syringes, or other drug preparation equipment
  • People with select medication recommendations (e.g. hemodialysis)
  • Prior recipients of transfusions or organ transplant
  • Healthcare personnel with needlestick injuries or mucosal exposure to HCV-positive blood
  • Children born to mothers with HCV infection

Routine testing is recommended for people with ongoing risk factors:

  • currently inject drugs and share needles, syringes, or other drug preparation equipment
  • require certain medical procedures such as hemodialysis

How can Hepatitis C be prevented?

There is no current vaccine for the Hepatitis C virus. There are other methods to reduce your risk of becoming infected:

  • avoid sharing or reusing needles, syringes or any other equipment used to prepare and inject drugs, steroids, hormones, or other substances 
  • do not use personal items that may have come into contact with an infected person’s blood such as razors or toothbrushes
  • do not get tattoos or body piercings from an unlicensed facility

Is there a treatment for Hepatitis C?

Treatment for Hepatitis C is available that can cure most people with Hepatitis C in 8-12 weeks.

Additional Resources

Resources for Clinicians
National Clinician's Consultation Center (UCSF)
844 437-4636    844 (HEP-INFO)         Monday-Friday; 9am - 5pm ET
Clinician to clinician advice on hepatitis C mono-infection management from testing to initiating treatment to managing advanced disease. 

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The mission of the STD/HIV/Viral Hepatitis Program is to collaborate with others throughout Montana to help prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and Viral Hepatitis (HCV),  and improve access to treatment and services.

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