My parents were talking about hepatitis C and getting tested. What is it and how can I get it? Do I need to get tested?

My parents were talking about hepatitis C and getting tested. I looked it up and everything I found online seems a little confusing. What is it and how can I get it? Do I need to get tested?

This is a great question! There is a lot of confusing information on the internet, so I’ll explain a little bit about what hepatitis C is, how you can get it, and prevention you can look into.

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that affects your liver. It usually doesn’t have a lot of symptoms, which causes most people to be unaware that they have the disease. The most common symptom is mild fatigue, but if you have hepatitis C, you might also have fever, nausea, and dark urine. If you have hepatitis C for a long time and don’t receive treatment, the virus can lead to liver cancer or liver failure.

How can I get it?

The most common way that you might contract hepatitis C is by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs, hospital needle sticks, or from mother to child during birth. It can also be transmitted via sexual contact with someone who has the virus, but this is a lot rarer. Especially among young people, using contaminated needles through injection drug use is the most common way to transmit hepatitis C.

How can I prevent contracting hep C?

There’s no vaccination against hepatitis C, but there are a lot of steps you can take to decrease your risk of contracting hepatitis C. Make sure to always practice safe sex and use a condom. If you’re getting a tattoo or piercing, make sure it is from a licensed practitioner. Because hepatitis C is common among younger people who are injecting drug users, avoid using intravenous drugs. If you do use drugs, make sure you’re using clean needles every time and not sharing with others.

Get tested and treatment

Getting tested for hepatitis C is very easy. Your doctor will give you a simple blood test, but you won’t need to get tested unless you have a risk factor for the virus. Risk factors include ever injecting drugs, sharing personal items like razors or toothbrushes with someone who has the virus, or having unprotected sex with someone who has hepatitis C. Your parents might be getting tested for hepatitis C because it used to be a lot more common than it is now. Because of that, some tribes and the Indian Health Service are trying to screen as many people as they can to reduce hepatitis C deaths and make sure people who are sick get the treatment that they need.

If you test positive for hepatitis C, your doctor will put you on antiviral medications, which will clear your body from the virus. These medications are more than 90% effective in curing people of hepatitis C!

Resources

For more information, you can check out:

Hope this helps! Make sure you are practicing safe sex, get tested for hepatitis C if you think you might be at risk, and ask questions if you’re still confused.

Take care,
Auntie Manda