Oregon has the highest mortality rate associated with hepatitis C or hep C in the country and it is estimated that 95,000 Oregonians have hep C and half don’t know it.
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hep C is a blood borne virus that is only passed when blood from someone who has hep C gets into the bloodstream of another person. This is called blood-to-blood contact. Hep C can be passed on by small amounts of blood, sometimes so small that it is not visible to the eye.
Most Common Transmission Routes
Sharing any form of injection equipment such as needles, syringes, spoons, tourniquets, water, filter and preparation surfaces are common ways that hep C can be passed from person to person. This is the most common way hep c is transmitted in the United States. Even if someone shares injection drug equipment every now and then, only one time or maybe years ago, this is still enough risk to acquire hep C.
Other ways hep C can be transmitted in the United States include:
- Receipt of donated blood, blood products, and organs (once a common means of transmission but now rare in the United States since blood screening became available in 1992)
- Needlestick injuries in health care settings
- Birth to a hep C-infected mother
Less commonly, a person can also get hep C through:
- Sex with a hep C-infected person (an inefficient means of transmission, although HIV-infected men who have sex with men have increased risk of sexual transmission)
- Sharing personal items contaminated with infectious blood, such as razors or toothbrushes (also inefficient vectors of transmission)
- Other health care procedures that involve invasive procedures, such as injections (usually recognized in the context of outbreaks)
- Hep C can also be passed on when equipment used for tattooing or piercing is not sterile. This is more likely to occur in non-licensed facilities and non-regulated facilities.
You CANNOT get hep C from
- Sharing food or drink
- Kissing or hugging
- Toilet seats
- Mosquito bites
Acute hep C symptoms:
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or eyes)
Most people with acute or chronic hepatitis C virus infection do not have any symptoms. In general, common symptoms for chronic hep C include chronic fatigue and depression. Many people eventually develop chronic liver disease, which can range from mild to severe, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. Chronic liver disease in people with hep C usually happens slowly, without any signs or symptoms, over several decades. Chronic hep C virus infection is often not recognized until people are screened for blood donation or from an abnormal blood test found during a routine examination.