Often, people living with hepatitis C do not have any symptoms until their liver is already damaged, which can take many years. If there are symptoms, they could include:
• Fatigue and sleep problems
• Fever and flu-like symptoms
• Aches and pain, including in the liver area (behind ribs on the right side of the belly)
• Changes in mood, including anxiety, depression, and irritability
• Low appetite and nausea
• Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
Please note that the symptoms can come and go, and may not be enough to make you think of getting a test for hepatitis
Hepatitis C is transmitted when the blood of someone living with hepatitis C gets into someone else’s blood. Even a very small amount of blood can transmit hepatitis C.
- Sharing injecting equipment
- Unsterile tattoo & piercing procedures
- Medical & dental procedures in developing countries
- Blood transfusions in Australia before 1990
- Needle stick injuries
- Blood to blood contact in fights
- Sharing razors and toothbrushes
- During childbirth
- Sexual contact where blood is present
Hepatitis C IS NOT transmitted by
- Sneezing and coughing
- Hugging, handshakes and casual contact
- Sharing food or eating utensils
- Insect and animal bites
At the moment, in Tasmania, the only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to have a blood test. Hepatitis C tests are not always part of routine blood testing – you might have to ask. GPs and Nurse Practitioners can organise these tests. Testing for hepatitis C may require two different blood tests. You can ask your clinician to order “reflexive hepatitis C” testing which means both tests can be done at the same time. Blood tests are usually free for people with a Medicare card.
Once hepatitis C enters the body, it can take up to 12 weeks before it can be detected in your blood. It is important to consider this when getting tested. Tests done too early may not be accurate. Even though hepatitis C may not show up on tests during this time, it can still be transmitted to others.
New medicines are now available to cure hepatitis C.
These medicines, known as direct-acting antivirals (or DAAs), cure hepatitis C for over 95% of people.
- Treatment consists of 1 to 3 tablets taken daily for 8 to 12 weeks. This will depend on which medicine is being used and if there is any liver damage.
- Side effects from the hepatitis C treatment are uncommon, usually mild, and get better with time. Side effects may include nausea, headaches, and feeling tired.
- GPs can now prescribe the new DAA medicines, but in some cases they may refer to a specialist if they are concerned about other health problems.
- The new medicines are available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for people over the age of 12 with an Australian Medicare card.
- Treatment is available for everyone including people who are currently injecting drugs, people in prison, people with liver damage, and people who have been cured of hepatitis C before.