Our hepatitis C FAQs aim to quickly answer the most commonly asked hep C questions. You might simply be curious about hep C. Or you, or someone you know, might have been diagnosed with hep C recently or in the past. In any case, these hep C FAQs are for you. Just scroll down to see all 12 FAQs.

Also see our A B C Comparison. It shows the main differences between the three most common hepatitis viruses (in Australia).

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What is hepatitis C

Hep C is an easily cured viral infection. It is passed on when blood from someone who has hep C gets into the bloodstream of someone else. For more information, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 >>

What causes hepatitis C?

Hep C is passed on through blood-to-blood contact. Blood from someone who has hep C must get into the bloodstream of someone else. In Australia, this occurs mainly when people inject drugs, or through tattooing or body piercing. For more information, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 >>

What is the hepatitis C test window period?

If you catch hep C, it takes two weeks before it will show up in blood tests. This is called the hep C test window period. The window period for newborn babies is eight weeks.

For more information, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 >>

Is hepatitis C curable?

Yes, very good new treatments are available to people with hep C in Australia (over 18 years) who have a Medicare Card. Treatments give a 95% chance of cure (getting rid of your hep C). They have few side effects, are pills and don’t involve injections, and only last for 12 weeks (generally). For more information, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 >>

Do I have to pay for hepatitis C treatment?

If you have a Medicare Card, the medicines are free. You will be charged the usual co-payment paid for a prescription. This is currently $38.30 per month for general patients and $6.20 per month if you have a Health Care Card. For more information, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 >>

Will I get side effects from hepatitis C treatment?

The new treatments are well tolerated with only minor side effects. Some treatment options include Ibavyr (ribavirin) which can involve anaemia, fatigue, headache, skin irritation and insomnia. Pregnancy must be strictly avoided during treatment and afterwards. For more information, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 >>

Is there a hepatitis C vaccine?

No, there is currently no vaccine for hep C although scientists are working hard to develop one. For more information, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 >>

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

There are usually no symptoms. In a small number of cases, people might feel sick when they first catch hep C. It would be like the symptoms of hep B.

Click here for more information on hep B and hep C symptoms >>

For more information, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 >>

Can I pass hepatitis C on to my baby?

Pregnant women with hep C have a small chance of passing hep C on to their baby. Of one hundred babies (born to mums with hep C) only five will be born with hep C. If a mother has hep C her baby can be tested at eight weeks with a HCV PCR test. 

Click here for more information about HCV PCR testing >>

For more information, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 >>

How long does the hepatitis C virus survive outside the body?

Hep C can survive outside the body from around 12 hours to a few weeks. In most cases it will be dead within four days. Many factors contribute to its ability to survive. Changes in temperature, exposure to the sun, and the chemical environment can impact how long the virus survives outside the body. A 2010 study proved that in a bottle of water kept at room temperature, like one you might use to draw up water from if you’re injecting, hep C virus could survive for a few weeks. http://www.virologyj.com/content/7/1/40

For more information, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 >>

Do I have to tell anyone I have hepatitis C?

You might be wondering “is hepatitis C is contagious?” and “are there times when you must tell people that you have hep C”?

The good news is that hepatitis C is not contagious – and there are only a small number of times you have to tell other people:

  • If you donate blood to the Blood Bank (if you have or have ever had hep C your blood will not be accepted).
  • Some insurance policies, particularly life insurance.
  • If you are a healthcare worker in NSW and carry out exposure-prone procedures (surgery in body cavities).
  • Men must disclose if they want to donate sperm (this is covered by the Human Tissue Act 1983).
  • If you apply to join the Australian Defence Force (Navy, Army, Air Force).

For more information, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 >>

Do I have to tell my employer that I have hepatitis C?

In general, at work you are under no obligation to inform employers, work colleagues, clients or customers that you are living with hep C. The exception is if you are a healthcare worker who carries out exposure-prone procedures or you are working within the Australian Defence Forces. For more information, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 >>

Hepatitis ABC comparison info

ABC - what are they?

Hep A – Is a liver infection (caused by hep A virus) that makes people sick but only for 1-3 weeks.

Hep B – Is a liver infection (caused by hep B virus). Most adults who get hep B clear their infection. Most children who get hep B develop hep B for life and have risk of liver disease later in life.

Hep C – Is an easily-cured liver infection (caused by hep C virus).

ABC - test window periods

Hep A – it takes 2-4 weeks after catching the virus before it shows up in blood tests (but tests are usually not done due to the short nature of illness).

Hep B – it takes 4-6 weeks (HBsAg test)

Hep C – for adults it takes 2 weeks after catching the virus before it shows up in blood tests (PCR test). For babies, it takes 8 weeks (PCR test).

ABC - how are they transmitted?

Hep A – food or water contaminated with sewerage / anything with human poo on it that comes in contact with the mouth.

Hep B – mother to baby / blood or other body fluids of someone with hep B getting into another person’s bloodstream / sexual contact.

Hep C – blood of someone with hep C getting into another person’s bloodstream / mother to baby.

ABC - what are the symptoms?

Hep A – Feeling unwell, aches and pains, fever, nausea, lack of appetite, abdominal pain, dark urine / followed by jaundice (yellowing of eyes and sometimes skin) / young children usually have no symptoms.

Hep B – Often no symptoms, but if they do appear, they include jaundice (see above), dark urine, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, and joint pain.

Hep C – Often no symptoms, but if they do appear, they are like having a mild flu / a small number of people may have hep B-like symptoms (see above).

ABC - treatments

Hep A – Rest and keeping up fluids, but no treatment needed / some people use complementary therapies to manage their symptoms but care must be taken as some therapies may cause liver damage (e.g. herbals).

Hep B – Good treatments are available for all adults who hold Medicare cards / treatment aims to prevent liver damage but is not an actual cure / not everyone will need treatment and there are short- or long-term options / phone the Hepatitis Infoline for more information 1800 803 990 >>

Hep C – Very good treatments are available for all adults who hold Medicare cards / these treatments give high cure rates for all hep C genotypes / patients can speak to a GP or specialist, or for more info about treatment options, phone the Hepatitis Infoline 1800 803 990 >>

ABC - are there vaccines?

Hep A – Yes, there is a vaccine and it is safe and effective.

Hep B – Yes, the hep B vaccine is safe and effective, and is part of Australia’s national immunisation program.

Hep C – No, there is no vaccine but scientists are trying hard to develop one.

ABC - how are they prevented?

Hep A – Get vaccinated / household contacts and sexual partners of someone with hep A should be given immunoglobulin (drug that gives short-term protection) / wash hands after going to the toilet and before eating / practice safer sex.

Hep B – Get vaccinated / newborn babies should be given an injection of immunoglobulin within 12 hours of birth / don’t share fits or other equipment when injecting drugs / avoid blood-to-blood contact / practice safer sex.

Hep C – Do not share fits or other equipment when injecting drugs / avoid other blood-to-blood contact / avoid backyard tattooists and piercers / use shops that follow proper sterile procedures / avoid needle stick injuries.

This page last updated 9 Jan 2018

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