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revised July 10, 2013

Arrow BulletCommunicable Diseases - Hepatitis C


Download our Hepatitis C fact sheet
English (PDF 94KB, 1 page)
Chinese (PDF 188KB, 1 page)
Punjabi (PDF 65KB, 1 page)
Urdu (PDF 99KB, 1 page)
Vietnamese (PDF84KB, 1 page)

Advice for Hepatitis C Infected
English (PDF 94KB, 1 page)
Chinese (PDF 174KB, 1 page)
Punjabi (PDF 71KB, 1 page)
Urdu (PDF 98KB, 1 page)
Vietnamese (PDF 74KB, 1 page)



What is hepatitis C?

  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is one of several viruses that cause hepatitis, an acute or chronic inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis can lead to liver damage and possibly cancer. Hepatitis C was first identified in 1989. Before that it was called Non A Non B hepatitis.
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What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms may appear 2 weeks to 6 months after exposure to the virus, but most people (90%) have no signs of illness at all. Of those with symptoms, the most common is chronic fatigue, but may also include lack of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, itchiness, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), joint and muscle aches. Complications of hepatitis include chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.
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How is HCV spread?

  • Hepatitis C is spread through contact with blood or body fluids containing blood of an infected person. The infected fluids must enter a break in the skin.
  • Hepatitis C can be spread by:
    • Sharing drug related equipment such as needles, spoons, straws, and filters.
    • By using non-sterile equipment for tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture and aesthetic procedures.
    • Receiving blood transfusions or blood products that have not been screened for hepatitis C. Since 1992, blood donations in Canada are screened for the hepatitis C virus.
    • Sexual transmission is very low. The risk may increase when there are open genital sores and during menstrual periods.
    • 1- 5% of women who have HCV pass it on to their babies before or at the time of birth. This increases to 10-15% if the mother also has HIV.
    • Breastfeeding does not pass HCV from mother to baby. If the nipples are bleeding or cracked it is recommended that breast feeding be stopped until healed.
    • Travelers' risk for contracting HCV infection is generally low. However, the risk of HCV infection is considered higher in countries where the prevalence of HCV infection is intermediate or high.
    • Hepatitis C is not spread by food, water, kissing, sneezing, or coughing.
  • Although these risks have been identified, sometimes it is not possible to determine how a person became infected with the virus.
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How do I know if I have hepatitis C?

  • • You should discuss testing with your health professional (nurse, doctor), especially if you have risk factors. Two blood tests are needed to diagnose hepatitis C (HCV Antibodies & HCV RNA). If you test positive, your doctor may refer you to a specialist to determine whether or not you require treatment. Blood tests should also be done for hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
  • Healthy Sexuality Clinics - locations
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How can I protect myself from getting hepatitis C?

  • There is no vaccine available against hepatitis C.
  • Ensure sterile/new equipment is used for drug use, tattooing, body/ear piercing, acupuncture, or aesthetic procedures.
  • During sexual activities where blood may be present use a condom or dental dam.
  • Do not share personal care items that could come in contact with blood (razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, nail files).
  • Cover cuts or sores on your skin with bandages.
  • Dispose of blood stained articles (tampons, dental floss, and bandages) in a tied plastic bag.
  • Use Routine Practices when exposed to blood in a first aid situation (wear gloves, clean and disinfect bloodstained surfaces, dispose of blood stained articles in a plastic bag, wash hands after removing gloves).
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Resources for more information

  • Futher information can be obtained from:
    • Canadian Liver Foundation: 416-964-1953, 1-800-563-5483
    • The Hepatitis C Society of Canada: 416-979-5855, 1-800-652-HepC
    • Peel Public Health: 905-799-7700
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Revised: July 10, 2013

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