Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is spread through contact with blood from an infected person. Today, most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment used to prepare and inject drugs.
For some people, hepatitis C is a short-term illness, but for more than half of people who become infected with the hepatitis C virus, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection. Chronic hepatitis C can result in serious, even life-threatening health problems like cirrhosis and liver cancer. People with chronic hepatitis C can often have no symptoms and don’t feel sick. When symptoms appear, they often are a sign of advanced liver disease.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The best way to prevent hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injecting drugs. Getting tested for hepatitis C is important because treatments can cure most people with hepatitis C in 8 to 12 weeks.
Hepatitis C cases have doubled in the past 10 years to over 6,000 cases per year. It is estimated that nearly 65,000 people in South Carolina are living with chronic hepatitis C. Nationally the opioid epidemic is contributing to the increase in hepatitis C cases.
At WakeUp Carolina, we offer Rapid HCV testing. It is a very quick process that consists of a finger-stick blood draw, with results in as little as 20 minutes. We also provide the person being tested with a $10 gift card.
We partner with other organizations such as local recovery centers and homeless shelters so that we can provide testing to populations who otherwise would not have access to these kinds of services.
Frequently Asked Questions and Misconceptions
What happens if I am HCV-positive?
If you test positive for HCV with the Rapid Testing Device, you will be referred to a blood draw lab so that more confirmatory testing can be conducted. The good news is that if you are HCV-positive, it can be cured.
What do HCV symptoms look like?
Most people with hepatitis C do not experience any symptoms. If people do have symptoms, they may go unnoticed or look like other common illnesses, like the flu. If symptoms do appear, they usually occur 6-12 weeks after infection and may include: stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, fever, or dark-colored urine. Because hepatitis C affects the liver, it may also cause jaundice – when the eyes and skin are yellow.
What happens if HCV is left untreated?
If left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can lead to liver cancer, liver cirrhosis, and even death.
How much does the medicine cost to cure HCV?
Without insurance HCV treatment can be very pricey, but there are companies and organizations out there that will help cover the cost of treatment so that it can be available to anyone.
Myth: Once you’ve had hepatitis C and been treated, you can’t get it again.
No matter if you have had HCV before or not, you are still at risk of contracting the virus.
Myth: You can get hepatitis C from sharing eating utensils.
The virus can be spread by sharing things — like toothbrushes and razors — that have come in contact with another person’s blood. But hepatitis C is not spread by using the same forks, spoons, or knives. It’s also not spread by kissing, hugging, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing.
Myth: It’s nearly impossible to cure hepatitis C.
About 90% of people are cured of hepatitis C with few side effects.
Myth: You can tell people have hepatitis C just by looking at them.
About half the people with the virus don’t know they’re infected because they have no signs of infection. It can take years for any to show up.