What is hep C?

Hepatitis C, sometimes called hep C or HCV, is a virus that causes damage to your liver.

If you get hep C, your body’s immune system will try and fight the virus. There are two things that could happen. You could get an acute illness or a chronic illness.

  1. Acute hep C means the virus might make you sick for a short time but then you will feel better. About 25% of people only get acute hep C because their body manages to clear the virus. If the virus stays in your liver for more than six months, you will develop chronic hep C.

  2. Chronic hep C means the virus stays in your liver for life unless you get cured. You may not always feel sick, but over time the virus can damage your liver so it does not work properly.

Click on this short video, produced by ASHM, to learn about the functions of our liver and how it can be affected by hepatitis C virus (HCV).

how do you get hep c?

Hep C is transmitted when infected blood from one person gets into someone else’s bloodstream. Even invisible amounts of blood can transmit hep C.

If you have ever had an amateur tattoo, a blood transfusion before 1990, dental or medial procedure overseas, or injected drugs - even just once, you could be at risk of hep C.

how do you know if you have hep C?

Blood tests can detect hep C. If you think you may have hep C, ask your GP for a test. Tests for hep C are not part of usual blood tests - you have to ask.

what are the symptoms of hep c?

Hep C can make you feel run down and fatigued. If you are struggling with your energy levels, it might be more than feeling tired and getting older. Many people with hep C have few or no symptoms, however hep C can damage the liver slowly and silently and years later cause cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure. That’s why it is important to get tested for hep C.

Chronic hep c outcomes

Things like alcohol intake, age when hep C was caught and current level of liver inflammation may all influence a person’s individual outcome. You need to seek medical advice to find out about your own situation.

Curing chronic hep C

Since March 2016 a range of new medicines have become available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in Australia. These new medicines cure 95% of people and have few or no side-effects. It might be as easy as taking one pill per day for 8-12 weeks. Getting cured of hep C is now much simpler. All you need to do is talk to your GP.

Last review: September 2019