Hepatitis C Fact Sheet
- Hepatitis C virus (HCV)
- Identified in 1989
- Responsible for 90% of non-A, non-B hepatitis cases following blood transfusion prior to 1989
- HCV is a viral infection carried in the blood
- There are six genotypes and more than 100 subtypes of HCV identified.
|Incubation Period||Average 2-26 weeks|
|Acute Illness||Mild acute illness is seen in less than 25 % of infected people|
|Chronic Infection||70-80% of people progress to chronic infection.|
|Death from Chronic Liver Disease, Disease from liver damage, and Cancer of the Liver||1-5% of infected people per year.|
Signs and Symptoms
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) can occur in 20-30% of those infected. Other general symptoms such as uneasiness, loss of appetite, pain in the stomach area, dark urine and fatigue can be seen in 10-20% of those infected.
- About 70-80% of people show no signs or symptoms of infection.
- About 20-30% or individuals who are infected with acute Hep C will recover without treatment.
Modes of Transmission
- Exposure to blood or blood products infected with HCV
- An infected mother can pass the infection to her newborn child (vertical transmission).
- Sexual transmission is a rare event, but can happen in the presence of blood.
- Household transmission through sharing of razors, toothbrushes, scissors and nail clippers is possible.
Persons at Risk
|Persons||Level of Risk|
|Recipients of blood, tissues, or organs prior to 1990||High|
|Recipients of blood clotting factors (e.g. Factor VIII) prior to 1992||High|
|Injection Drug Users||High|
|People who 'snort' drugs||High|
|People getting tattoos and body piercings with tools that are not sterile (e.g. in prison)||Medium|
|People who have sex with a Hep C carrier||Medium|
|Babies born to Hep C infected mothers||Low|
|Health Care Workers||Low|
- If your job regularly exposes you to blood or blood products from others, try to protect yourself with gloves to reduce the risk of the spread of viruses.
- If you use injection drugs, ensure you use clean, sterile needles. Sharing needles, syringes or other drug-use equipment with others can put you at risk of infection.
- Treatment of people with new Hep C infections with long acting interferon and ribavirin can get rid of the virus in up to 60% of people within 24 to 72 weeks.
Reference: Bloodborne Pathogens Section, Blood Safety Surveillance and Health Care Acquired Infections Division, Health Canada, 2003
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