What is Hep C?
Hepatitis C, or hep C, is a virus.
It is spread through blood to blood contact and can seriously damage your liver without you knowing. Symptoms can go unnoticed for many years.
If left untreated hep C may cause scarring to the liver, cancer and even death.1
Are You At Risk?
You can become infected with hep C if you come into contact with infected blood.1 There are several ways in which this can happen, you may be at risk if you have:
Injected illegal or recreational drugs
It is estimated over 60% of people with hep C are those who previously injected drugs, and roughly a quarter are current injecting drug users.2 So if you have ever injected drugs, even if it was a long time ago, you may be at risk.
Had medical, dental or cosmetic treatment abroad
If you have ever lived in or regularly travelled to countries in South Asia or Eastern Europe, and/or you have had medical, dental or cosmetic treatment in countries in these regions, you may be at higher risk of hep C.3,4
Had a tattoo or piercing abroad
Hep C can be passed on by using tattooing and body piercing equipment that has not been properly cleaned.3,4
Had a blood transfusion before 1992
Since September 1991, all blood donations in the UK have been checked for the hep C virus. If you received a blood donation before then, and you haven’t already been tested for hep C since, you may be at risk.4
If you think you might be at risk, you can order a free, confidential at home hep C blood test.
You can also talk to your doctor about arranging a free in-person test.Order an at home NHS blood test
Other less common risk factors include unprotected sex with a person living with hep C, sharing toothbrushes, scissors and razors, needle stick injuries or from an infected mother to their unborn child.4
If any of these apply to you, or you have any questions about your risk of hep C, then you should speak to your doctor.
What are the symptoms?
People often don’t experience symptoms of hep C for many years. If symptoms do develop after infection, they may include:1
- Flu-like symptoms
- High temperature
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach ache
- Feeling and being sick
If left untreated hep C may cause scarring to the liver, cancer and even death.1Learn more about hep C symptoms
Approximately 50%of people living with hep C do not know that they have the virus5
What to do if you’ve been exposed to hep C risks or have symptoms?
Currently, there is no effective vaccine to stop you contracting hep C, if exposed.
The best way to prevent hep C is by avoiding risk factors that can spread the disease, such as:1
- Sharing drug-injecting equipment with other people.
- Sharing razors or toothbrushes that might be contaminated with blood.
- Preventing exposure to blood during sex – although the risk of getting hep C through sex is low.
Early diagnosis can prevent health problems that may result from infection and prevent transmission of the virus.7
The Hepatitis C Trust offers a confidential helpline to support people affected by hep C and those that think they may be at risk. The helpline number is 020 7089 6221.
For more information and support, visit The Hepatitis C Trust.
Disclaimer: Be Free of Hep C and Hep C, Ki? campaigns have been developed and funded by Gilead Sciences Ltd, as part of an initiative with industry partners to support the NHS England Hepatitis C Elimination Programme. Together, we are accelerating our progress towards hepatitis C elimination in England by raising awareness of hepatitis C risk factors, testing and treatment.”