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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.

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Hepatitis C (HCV)

Hepatitis Section

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is spread through contact with infected blood. Many people with HCV will carry the virus for a lifetime. It can cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer and death.

For some people, hepatitis C is a short-term illness but for 70%-85% of people who become infected with hepatitis C, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection. The majority of infected persons might not be aware of their infection because they are not physically ill. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

  • Symptoms and Methods of Transmission
  • What You need to know about the hepatitis c virus
  • Hepatitis Support Groups
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Symptoms may include:

  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite

How Do You Get HCV?

  • Sharing injection drug equipment, even once many years ago
  • Receiving blood transfusion before 1992
  • Occupational needle-stick
  • Long term hemodialysis
  • Infected mother to her infant
  • Sexual transmission (not common, however, some sexual practices may involve blood)

Who should be tested for HCV?

  • All Baby Boomers born from 1945-1965
  • Anyone who had a blood transfusion before 1992
  • People who inject drugs, even once many years ago
  • Persons with hepatitis B or HIV/AIDS
  • Persons who were ever on long-term hemodialysis

If you have hepatitis C:

  • Avoid sharing needles for injecting drugs, tattooing, piercing or any other reason
  • Do not share razors, toothbrushes or nail clippers
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and hepatitis B
  • Join a support group
  • Get regular health check-ups
  • Use a latex condom when having sex
  • Discuss treatment options with your health care provider

Support Groups
A list of support groups in Florida for persons affected by hepatitis A, B or C

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. It is the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the United States and an estimated 3.9 million Americans have been infected with hepatitis C. Most of those infected with hepatitis C have chronic infections.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

Most people who have hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. However, some people can have mild to severe symptoms anywhere from two weeks to six months after being infected. These symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice.

What is the difference between acute and chronic hepatitis C?

Acute hepatitis C is a short-term illness that occurs within the first six months after someone is exposed to the hepatitis C virus. In most cases, acute hepatitis C leads to chronic hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis C is a long-term illness that occurs when hepatitis C remains in a person’s body. Chronic hepatitis C can last a lifetime and can lead to serious liver problems, cirrhosis or liver cancer.

How do you get hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from an infected person with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. In most instances, hepatitis C infection occurs through sharing needles, syringes or other equipment to inject drugs, needle stick injuries in healthcare settings or being born to a mother who has hepatitis C. Less commonly, a person can get hepatitis C through sharing personal care items that have come in contact with another person’s blood or having sexual contact with a person infected with hepatitis C.

Who should be tested for hepatitis C?

You should be tested for hepatitis C if you were born between 1945 and 1965, had an occupational needle stick, have received a blood transfusion before 1992, have ever injected and/or inhaled drugs (even once, many years ago), had clotting factor concentrates before 1987 or had long-term hemodialysis.

Is there a vaccine for hepatitis C?

There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C. However, if you test positive for hepatitis C, you should get vaccinated for both hepatitis A and B. According to the CDC, research into the development of a vaccine is under way.

Why get tested for hepatitis C when treatment may not be available?

Even though you may not be able to obtain treatment due to its prohibitive cost or due to ongoing substance abuse, it is important to know your status. Once a person knows their hepatitis C status, they can take concrete steps to protect the health of their liver and ensure that they do not expose others to the virus.  

Is data about hepatitis C in Florida available to the public?

Yes.  You may access data and additional information about hepatitis C at:  www.flahepatitis.org, www.cdc.gov/hepatitis or http://hcvadvocate.org.

Does Florida have elevated levels of hepatitis C? Should I be worried?

Reported chronic hepatitis B and C cases increased slightly in Florida for 2014 across all age groups. However, this increase may be due to improvements and modifications to the department’s notifiable disease reporting requirements. These improvements in surveillance have increased the department’s capacity for identifying, classifying and reporting hepatitis cases in Florida. This does not mean that cases have increased significantly or are “on the rise,” simply that the state has a better system for identifying cases. As long as you take the necessary precautions, there is no need to worry about becoming infected with hepatitis C.

What is the department doing to combat hepatitis C in Florida?

In addition to increased surveillance of all types of hepatitis in Florida, the department attempts to investigate all reported cases of acute hepatitis C. As of January 3, 2014, 99% of acute hepatitis C cases from 2013 had been investigated. The department attempts to link positive diagnoses of hepatitis C to care, encourages healthy lifestyle changes (exercise and nutrition) and provides hepatitis A and B vaccinations to individuals with hepatitis C.