Ask the Expert Episode: Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C (Hep C or HCV) is a virus spread from one person to another through contact with the blood of an infected person. It causes the liver to become inflamed. The virus causes permanent damage leading to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. It is the most common blood-borne disease in the United States.  The symptoms of the hepatitis C virus can be very similar to those of the hepatitis A and B viruses. However, infection with the hepatitis C virus can lead to chronic liver disease and is the leading reason for liver transplants in the United States. Although there is no vaccine for HCV, there is a new, safe and effective treatment for hepatitis C that can cure 95% of persons living with the virus. 

Information about Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is transmitted when blood or other body fluids from a person living with hepatitis C enters the body of a person not living with hepatitis C. Hepatitis C can remain infectious in blood outside of the body for several days or weeks.

The most common forms of transmission for HCV are:

  • Sharing needles and other drug injection equipment (like cookers and cotton)

  • Sexual activities that involve blood, such as anal sex or rough vaginal sex

  • Perinatal, from mother to baby at birth (about 5% risk; much higher if the mother is living with HIV)

  • Body piercing or tattooing using unsterilized needles or shared inkwells

  • Sharing objects that may contain traces of blood, like snorting straws, toothbrushes, razors, or manicure products

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

Most people do not show symptoms, which is why people can go decades without knowing they are living with hepatitis C. The symptoms of hepatitis C include weight loss, fatigue, poor appetite, fever, vomiting and occasionally joint pain, hives or rash.

What if I have hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C acts very slowly – most people don’t have any symptoms. Even without symptoms, liver conditions can develop 10 to 30+ years after being infected. That’s why people can have hepatitis C for decades without knowing it.

Can Hepatitis C be Cured?

Yes. New and improved treatments are available that can cure hepatitis C in 95% of people. Treatment is usually one pill a day for a few months. Even if you are cured, you can get infected again... There is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C.

Beginning summer of 2019, if you are a Louisiana Medicaid beneficiary or in Louisiana corrections, your treatment is covered at no cost to you!

Testing and Treatment for Hepatitis C

You can learn more about the Louisiana Dept. of Health's plan to eliminate Hepatitis C in our state by reading the Louisiana Hepatitis C Elimination Plan here. 

Find Healthy Resources Near You

Upcoming Classes & Events