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Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. This infection is primarily transmitted through contact with infected blood. Transmission of hepatitis C during unprotected sexual relations is less frequent, but still possible. That is why it is considered an STBBI. It is possible to develop a chronic hepatitis C infection that has significant repercussions on one’s health. Unlike hepatitis B, there is no vaccine against hepatitis C.

Many people infected with hepatitis C show no symptoms when they first contract it, but they are carriers of the disease and may unknowingly transmit it. 

Transmission

The hepatitis C virus is transmitted through contact with infected blood. It can be transmitted:

  • By sharing contaminated paraphernalia used to sniff or inject drugs (straws, needles, pipes, etc.)
  • Through contact with unsterilized tattoo, piercing, or acupuncture equipment
  • By sharing personal hygiene items with an infected person (toothbrush, razor, nail clippers, etc.)
  • Through unprotected sexual relations where there is a possibility of being in contact with infected blood (vaginal sexual relations during menstruation, for example)
  • A mother may also transmit the infection to their baby during labour

It is possible to be infected more than once during one’s lifetime.

Symptoms

In many cases, hepatitis C will not be accompanied by any symptoms. For those who have been infected and experience symptoms, they may take 2 to 6 months to appear. It is therefore possible for someone to transmit hepatitis C without knowing they have it. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, an infected person with symptoms may observe the following signs: 

  • Fatigue
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Dark urine or light-coloured stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • A yellow tinge to the skin or to the whites of the eyes 

Testing and Treatment 🔍

Testing is done by taking a blood sample. In some cases, the virus disappears on its own within six months (but it can still be transmitted during this time). In other cases, several medications must be taken in order to treat hepatitis C. Even if you get rid of the hepatitis C virus, you may still contract it again. 

Prevention

Use a condom during sexual relations to avoid contracting or transmitting hepatitis C. Avoid sharing paraphernalia used to inhale or inject drugs. If you’re getting tattooed or pierced, make sure that the establishment takes measures to ensure the sterilization of their tools. You can do an internet search ahead of time to check that the parlour has a good reputation, and you can also always ask their employees about it. Finally, ask your sexual partners if they have recently been tested.

Sources: Public Health Agency of Canada; The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada