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Sexually Transmitted Disease Specialists

 Confidential and expert care                                                                                                                      703 532-1100

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C infection is caused by a virus which is carried in the blood and infects the liver. About 80% of people infected with the hepatitis C virus remain carriers, with the virus staying in their liver and bloodstream. Long-term carriers may develop liver problems years after infection.

Hepatitis C is spread by contact with infected blood. A high risk of blood contact is the sharing of needles or equipment with infected IV drug users. Sharing razors or toothbrushes with an infected person may spread the disease. Other common methods of transmission are tattoos, body piercing and acupuncture. Some people with hepatitis C were infected through blood transfusions before testing began in the mid-1980's. Hepatitis C can spread through sexual contact, and hepatitis C may be transmitted from mother to baby.

Most hepatitis C infections do not cause symptoms. Some people may experience abdominal discomfort, fatigue, or jaundice. Long-term hepatitis C virus carriers may go on to develop scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver or liver cancer.

Hepatitis C can be diagnosed with a blood test.

Treatment is available for some people with chronic hepatitis C. There are side effects and the treatment may not be effective in all cases.

There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C infection.