Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C, also known as Hep C, is an infection in the liver. Over time, the virus causes liver injury and scarring and can make you very sick. The hepatitis C virus spreads through contact with infected blood and bodily fluids, such as semen and vaginal fluid. You will only be infected if the virus enters your bloodstream.

Risk factors

There are many risk factors for hepatitis C. Click here to learn more.


You may have hepatitis C and not have any signs or symptoms.

For those who do have symptoms, you may experience the following:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • joint pain
  • dark urine
  • pale feces
  • stomach pain
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

How do you know if you have hepatitis C?

You can have hepatitis C for many years without symptoms or feeling sick, even though the virus may injure your liver.

The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to get tested.

Knowing if you have hepatitis C early and getting cured means there is less time for your liver to become injured by the hepatitis C virus.

It takes two different blood tests to tell if you have hepatitis C:

  1. The first test is a screening test to see if you have ever had hepatitis C.
  2. The second test is a specific hepatitis C test to see if you have hepatitis C right now.

How is hepatitis C treated?

Treatment in the first six months focuses on the following:

  • treating symptoms
  • preventing the spread of the disease
  • preventing complications, such as liver damage

Your healthcare provider may prescribe antiviral drugs to treat hepatitis C.

Antiviral treatment includes a medication or combination of medications for someone with the infection beyond six months.

Whether or not you are getting treatment, you can help lower the risk of damage to your liver by:

  • Avoiding/ reducing alcohol
  • Avoiding/ reducing smoking
  • Eating healthy food

Your healthcare provider may also vaccinate you against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

These vaccines:

  • Help prevent further liver damage.
  • Are provided free of charge in many provinces and territories.
  • Check with your healthcare provider about the availability in your local area.


  • Use sterile equipment, new needles and new ink when getting a tattoo or piercing.
  • Do not share personal care items, as they may have traces of blood on them. Such items include razors, nail clippers and toothbrushes.
  • Use condoms and lube during sex.
  • Practice safer sex.
  • Get tested to know your Hepatitis C status.

If you inject, smoke or snort substances, do not share equipment.

  • Use new needles and use your own syringes, filters, water, and cookers.
  • Use your own pipes, stems and mouthpieces.
  • Use your own rolled paper and straws.

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Last updated: 2023-08-18