Did you know Friday July 28th is World Hepatitis Day? This year we are focusing on hepatitis C being curable and the possibility of the eventual elimination of hepatitis C in Australia. Currently there are an estimated 200,000 people living with hepatitis C who will benefit if they access the new treatments. Australia is on track to eliminate hepatitis C. To find out more about hepatitis C, see below…
So, what is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a virus that lives in blood and can affect your liver. Since hepatitis C lives in blood, it is only passed on through ‘blood to blood’ contact. This happens when the blood of someone who has hepatitis C gets into someone else’s bloodstream. The most common way hepatitis C is transmitted is by sharing equipment used for injecting drugs (including fits, spoons, swabs, water, filters and tourniquets).
Other ways hepatitis C may be transmitted include:
- sharing unsterile tattooing and body piercing equipment (including ink)
- sharing personal items like toothbrushes, razors and tweezers
- fighting and violence
- mother to baby during childbirth (low risk)
You cannot transmit hepatitis C from:
- hugging or kissing
- sex (unless there is blood present)
- sneezing or coughing over someone
- bathrooms and toilets
- sharing food or drinks
- mosquito bites
Protecting yourself – Be Blood Aware!
To reduce your risk of getting hepatitis C you should:
- always use new equipment for injecting including fits, spoons, swabs, water, filters and tourniquets and always wash your hands before and after injecting
- get tattoos and piercings done by professionals at registered parlours in Australia
- not share other people’s personal items including razors, toothbrushes or tweezers
- always wear gloves when giving first aid
- play the Blood Rule in sport
- keep cuts, abrasions or wounds clean and covered with waterproof dressings.
Remember there is no vaccine to stop people getting hepatitis C, so don’t share a bloody thing!
How do you know if you have hepatitis C?
The only way to find out if you have hepatitis C is by a blood test. It can take up to 3 months from the day you get hepatitis C to get a positive test result. This is known as the window period. So if your first test is negative, and you believe that you may have been at risk then you will need a repeat test in 3 months’ time.
How does hepatitis C affect people?
You cannot tell by looking at someone if they have hepatitis C, and often there are no signs when someone first gets the virus. After a while having hepatitis C some people might feel sick or tired, or like they have the flu all the time. 1 in 4 people can clear the virus naturally (without taking medication), but they are not immune and can get it again. Without treatment a small percentage of people with hepatitis C may get serious liver disease or cancer, but this usually takes a very long time.
The good news? We are on track to eliminate hepatitis C because we have very effective treatments available. Hepatitis C treatment can CURE the virus in 95% of cases. Treatment is easy to access and safe to take. If you are over 18 years of age, and have been living with hepatitis C for longer than 6 months speak to you GP or HepatitisWA about getting on treatment.
If you would like a hepatitis C blood test, to access treatment or more information call the Hepatitis Helpline – (08) 9328 8538 (metro), 1800 800 070 (Country) or visit the HepatitisWA website