Everything you might want to know about COVID-19, hep C, and more

We’ve been asked a lot of questions about how COVID-19 might affect people with hepatitis C (hep C). See below for our answers. Last updated: 4 May 2020.

COVID 19Hep C and COVID-19

Hep C  treatment and COVID-19

Drug use and methadone

COVID-19 and other risks

Liver health and COVID-19

COVID-19 virus and illness

Glossary

This page will be regularly updated as new information arises.

Government advice: social and physical distancing, washing hands, and staying home wherever possible.
Keep up-to-date >>>CLICK HERE 

For detailed info, see our COVID-19 and hep C fact sheet >>> CLICK HERE

Hep C and COVID-19

 

I have hep C, am I at higher risk of catching COVID-19?

NO. There is no evidence that people living with hep C are at higher risk of catching COVID-19.

Follow Government advice on keeping safe and stopping the spread of COVID-19 >>> CLICK HERE

 

I have hep C, am I at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19?

NO. There is no evidence that having hep C puts you at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Hep C itself is not a listed health condition that may contribute to more severe illness with COVID-19.

 

I have hep C so are there extra precautions I need to take against COVID-19?

TAKE THE SAME PRECAUTIONS AS EVERYONE. We all need to take precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19, whether we have hep C or not, for our health and for our community as a whole.

You should take extra precautions to protect yourself from COVID-19 if you:
– have an additional health condition (see list below >>>CLICK HERE);
– are over 70;
– are over 50 and Aboriginal;
– have a weakened immune system.

Follow Government advice on keeping safe and stopping the spread of COVID-19 >>> CLICK HERE

 

I am cured of hep C, am I still at risk with COVID-19?

NO. There is no evidence that people cured of hep C are at higher risk of catching COVID-19 or being severely ill if they do get it.

This is unless you also have a chronic health condition, are over 70, or have a weakened immune system (see list below >>>CLICK HERE).

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Hep C  treatment and COVID-19

 

I’ve been talking to my doctor about hep C treatment, should I wait until this is over to start?

The best time to start hep C treatment is completely up to you. Unless you have significant liver damage, your hep C treatment can wait – please talk more to your doctor about it.

If you’d like to start treatment and don’t know where to start, get in touch with us at Hepatitis NSW.

 

Should I keep taking my hep C treatment during this time?

YES. Definitely keep taking your hep C treatment. Only stop taking your treatment if told to by your doctor or specialist.

If you stop taking your treatment, the hep C virus will most likely come back and you won’t be cured..

 

I’m on hep C treatment, will this make me more at risk with COVID-19? Is my immune system weakened by the treatment?

NO. There is no evidence that hep C treatments affect your immune system or make you more at risk of catching COVID-19.

Hep C medications directly attack the hep C virus; they do not have any impact on your immune system.

 

Does my hep C treatment give me protection against COVID-19?

There is no evidence to suggest hep C treatments have an effect against COVID-19.

 

I am running out of hep C treatment pills but I’m worried about going to the pharmacy. Can I take it less frequently or wait until this is over?

NO. Definitely keep taking your hep C treatment as normal, unless told not to by your doctor or specialist.

It’s really important to keep taking your hep C treatment pills as normal to have the highest chance of being cured.

Pharmacies are an essential service and will stay open. Call your pharmacy to see if they deliver or can help make your visit quick and safe. You may also be able to get a friend or family member to pick your medication up for you.

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Injecting drug use and methadone

 

I’m worried I won’t be able to my access methadone while this COVID-19 crisis is going on.

Lots of NSW methadone (and bupe, suboxone) clinics are changing the way they work with their clients in response to COVID-19. This might include more takeaways, long-acting treatment, or changing conditions at the clinic to maintain social distancing. Talk to your clinic and prescriber about what will work for you during this period.

There may be some issues you or the clinic experiences as these changes are made. If you’re having any difficulty get in touch with us, ADIS or NUAA.

 

Where can I get sterile injecting equipment while this is going on?

Many Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) outlets in NSW are changing the way they work with clients and customers. Some injecting equipment can be sent in the post, you can pick up bulk orders, and some opening times might have changed.

The NSP directory can help you find the nearest place to pick up injecting equipment >>>CLICK HERE. Call to see if anything has changed.

You can also contact NUAA who may be able to help out with any injecting equipment needs you might have. NUAA are currently taking mail orders. Call them on 1800 644 413 or contact via their website.

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COVID-19 and infection risks

 

I am in rehab, prison, or a hospital, am I at higher risk of COVID-19?

If everyone is following the government’s advice on how to stay safe – including social and physical distancing and washing hands – then we are all lowering our risk of coming into contact with COVID-19. Some places face different challenges in keeping everyone safe.

Rehab facilities are working really hard to protect clients and staff from COVID-19.

Physical distancing inside prisons is difficult but staff are taking action to reduce the risks. Justice Health have assured us that any person in custody who develops coronavirus-like symptoms will be immediately isolated from the general prison population, tested for COVID-19, and provided with a protective mask.

People who work in hospitals are at greater risk of being exposed to COVID-19. All doctors, specialists, nurses, and health staff are doing everything they can to make hospitals as safe as possible.

 

Should I get the flu vaccine, and will this protect me against COVID-19?

The flu vaccine won’t help protect you against COVID-19, but can protect you against the most common strains of flu this coming flu season. Having the flu and COVID-19 is potentially dangerous, so we strongly recommend getting the flu vaccination.

If you have concerns about going to the doctors at this time we recommend giving your doctor a call to discuss what is the best course of action for you and your health.

Read more about flu vaccinations and COVID-19 >>>CLICK HERE

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Liver health and COVID-19

 

I have cirrhosis of the liver, does this make me more at risk with COVID-19?

If you have cirrhosis of the liver there is no evidence that you are at greater risk of catching COVID-19.

Having cirrhosis may increase the risk of severe illness if you also have COVID-19, but the evidence is limited at the moment. For this reason, it’s best to take all necessary precautions to keep yourself safe from COVID-19 by following government and medical recommendations.

Everyone with cirrhosis should see their liver specialist regularly. Call and speak to your specialist about what is best for your health.

 

I normally go for regular liver check-ups, but I’m worried about going to the clinic. What should I do?

All doctors, specialists, nurses, and health staff are doing everything they can to make clinics as safe as possible at this time. We recommend calling your doctor or specialist before any appointment to check. They might do an appointment over the phone (Telehealth) or there might be extra steps and precautions to take when you visit.

For more information on what healthcare is available through Telehealth >>>CLICK HERE 

 

I had a liver transplant. Should I be worried about COVID-19?

If you have had a liver transplant you will be on immunosuppressive medication. There is currently no evidence that being on this medication increases the risk of severe COVID-19 infection.  However long-term transplant patients are at risk of the health conditions that are known to increase the risk of severe COVID-19. For this reason, take particular precautions not to get infected.

Give your specialist a call and discuss your health with them. They’ll be able to advise what steps to take and what is best for your health at this time.

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COVID-19 virus and illness

 

Is the COVID-19 virus like the hep C virus?

NO. We know that COVID-19 is very different to the hep C virus. COVID-19 affects breathing (the respiratory system); hep C affects and infects the liver.

 

I have a runny nose, sore throat, fever, or headache. Do I have COVID-19?

If you are worried that you might have COVID-19, call your regular doctor or the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080. They will advise if you might need to get tested.

If you feel really unwell, call 000 and seek urgent medical care.

 

What health conditions make you most at risk of severe illness with COVID-19?

Health conditions that might contribute to a higher possible severity include:

  • coronary heart disease,
  • hypertension (high blood pressure),
  • diabetes,
  • obesity,
  • cancer, and
  • chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

Older people, particularly those over the age of 70, are also especially at risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.

Aboriginal people, particularly those over the age of 50, could also be at greater risk of severe illness because of generally higher rates of chronic illness (see Close The Gap).

Not having any additional health conditions, or being a young person, does not mean that severe COVID-19 illness is not possible.

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Glossary

 

Social distancing

  • This means keeping your distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Stay home as much as possible and only go out if it is essential
  • If you do have to go out in public, keep at least 1.5 metres from others
  • The more space between you and others, the harder it is for the virus to spread
  • Avoid public gatherings, family events, weddings, and other social events
  • Avoid handshaking, hugging, and kissing when greeting others.
  • Practice good hygiene including hand washing, covering coughs or sneezing with a tissue or your elbow, and avoiding touching your face
  • To read more >>>CLICK HERE

 

Physical distancing

  • This is another term for social distancing, emphasising the need to keep physically away from others to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 

Self-isolation (or, self-quarantine)

  • Self-isolation means you must stay home or in your hotel room for 14 days.
  • You cannot leave for any reason except a genuine emergency
  • You must self-isolate if:
    • you have COVID-19
    • you have been in close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19
    • you arrived in Australia after midnight on the 15 March 2020
  • Self-isolation is really important to stop the spread of COVID-19
  • This means you cannot go to public places such as work, social events, or shopping centres
  • This means you cannot visit other people or have them visit you
  • Breaking self-isolation puts the health of others in the community at serious risk. People have recently been jailed in Australia for breaking self-isolation requirements.
  • If you are isolating at home, ask others who are not in isolation to get food, medication, and other necessities and leave these at your front door
  • To read more >>>CLICK HERE

 

Quarantine

  • See above.

 

SARS-CoV-2

  • This is the technical name for the new coronavirus that originated in China in December 2019.
  • The ‘SARS’ part stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
  • The ‘CoV’ part stands for CoronaVirus.
  • The ‘2’ part stands for the fact this is the second coronavirus to cause SARS. You might have heard of the original SARS (or SARS-CoV-1) which also started in China in 2002.

 

COVID-19

  • This stands for COronaVIrus Disease 2019.
  • When we talk about COVID-19 we talk about the disease or illness caused by catching the virus SARS-CoV-2.
  • To make things as simple as possible, it’s best to just use COVID-19 when referring to this current virus.
  • There is still a lot we have to learn about COVID-19 including the best treatments, how it spreads, and how long it can survive outside the body. Scientists, researchers, health staff, and governments are all working around the clock to understand COVID-19 and we’re learning more every day.

 

Coronavirus

  • Viruses are grouped into families based on their similarities and given a name based on something they share.
  • There are lots of coronaviruses, you might have heard of SARS from 2002-2004 or MERS from 2012.
  • Hepatitis B, for instance, is a hepadnavirus while hepatitis C is a flavivirus.

 

Asymptomatic

  • Someone who doesn’t have symptoms is called asymptomatic – the symptoms of COVID-19 are absent.
  • People who don’t have symptoms of COVID-19 can often spread the virus to others unknowingly.
  • The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a dry cough, fever, sore throat, and/ or shortness of breath.
  • The only way to confirm if someone has COVID-19 is to get tested.

 

Pandemic

  • A pandemic is a global outbreak of a disease or virus.
  • Pandemics happen when a virus spreads easily and can infect many people.
  • Pandemics also happen when people do not have immunity or protection against a virus such as through vaccination.
  • Other pandemics in human history include the Bubonic Plague, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and the Spanish flu.

 

Lockdown

  • Almost every country around the world has dealt with this virus in their own way. Some countries have acted quickly and some have acted slowly. Some countries have had to stop almost everything and keep everyone in their homes to deal with COVID-19. This is called a lockdown.
  • In Australia we have not yet put a lockdown in place but it is still possible that we might need in order to fight COVID-19
  • The government will let you know if we go into lockdown and what that will mean if we do. For that info >>>CLICK HERE

 

Essential services

  • Some services are considered by the government as essential services and will remain open to everyone no matter what.
  • This currently includes hospitals, pharmacies, banks, and supermarkets.
  • The government may change what is considered an essential service at any time depending on the circumstances.

 

Telehealth

  • With everyone needing to stay at home as much as possible and the extra impact on the health system of COVID-19, health services are changing the way they deliver healthcare to patients.
  • This might mean your regular appointments are done over the phone or through your computer and might involve a video chat instead.
  • Your doctor, specialist, or other health professional will let you know any changes.
  • To read more >>>CLICK HERE

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Other links

 

FOR ABORIGINAL & TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE

  • Redfern Legal Centre: Public Health Laws and Police Powers >>>CLICK HERE
  • North Coast Primary Health Network: A message for the Mob about coronavirus (COVID-19) >>>VIDEO
  • NSW Health Posters: Keep our communities healthy:

 

FOR PEOPLE WHO INJECT DRUGS / ON PHARMACOTHERAPY (‘done, bupe)

 

GENERAL

  • World Hepatitis Alliance: COVID-19 for people living with viral hepatitis >>>CLICK HERE
  • National information about COVID-19 >>>CLICK HERE
  • NSW Health: Community resources >>>CLICK HERE
  • Coronavirus animation explainer videos >>>CLICK HERE

 

ASSESSMENT CLINICS

  • NSW Local Health District COVID-19 Assessment Clinics >>>CLICK HERE
  • National Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080 (general advice)
  • Health Direct: 1800 022 222 (showing symptoms)
  • Translating or interpreting services: 131 450

FLU VACCINATION

  • NSW Health: Why getting a flu vaccination now will help in the fight against COVID-19 >>>CLICK HERE

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This page last updated 13 May 2020.

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