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When you have just become infected with the hepatitis C virus, you may have no symptoms and may not even know you have been infected. This is the acute infection phase and can last from six to eight weeks, or longer. If you have symptoms, they are usually mild and may include fatigue, lethargy, nausea, reduced appetite, abdominal pain and jaundice.
Over time, the virus may disappear on its own, and you are no longer infected. This happens to approximately 25 out of 100 hepatitis C-infected people. If the virus does not disappear after six months, your infection is chronic. This happens to approximately 75 out of 100 hepatitis C-infected people.
If your hepatitis C is chronic, in three out of four cases, you will have only very mild to moderate damage to your liver over time. However, in one out of four cases, chronic hepatitis C can lead to more serious problems including cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer over a period of 25 to 30 years.
You are more likely to develop cirrhosis if you drink alcohol, are obese, are male, became infected after age 40, have another type of liver disease or have another chronic infection, such as HIV or hepatitis B in addition to hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is common worldwide. An estimated 170 million individuals worldwide including an estimated 250,000 in Canada are infected. Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact, which means that to contract hepatitis C, blood infected with the hepatitis C virus must get into your blood stream
You may risk exposure to hepatitis C by using injection drugs (even once), getting tattoos, piercings, pedicures, manicures or medical procedures with improperly sterilized equipment, sharing personal hygiene items with an infected person (e.g. razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers) or having had a blood transfusion or received blood products prior to July 1990.
Although your body’s immune system makes antibodies to HCV, these antibodies do not protect you. The virus changes so quickly that it escapes your body’s defences. This means that you cannot have lifelong protection from hepatitis C. Also, no hepatitis C vaccine exists at this time. If you are treated for HCV and get rid of the virus, you can still be infected again. However, what you do, or do not do, can affect your level of risk for getting hepatitis C again
There is no vaccine to protect you against hepatitis C. To avoid contracting hepatitis C, take the following precautions:
You have a high risk of contracting hepatitis C if you:
Ask your health care provider for a blood test to determine if you have the virus.
Please complete this short questionnaire to determine if it is recommended for you to get tested.To determine whether or not you have hepatitis C, you will need to have blood tests. You should consider getting tested if:
If the test result is NON-REACTIVE/NEGATIVE
Yes, since 2010 enormous progress has been made in treatment of chronic hepatitis C. New therapies called direct acting antivirals (DAAs) are pills that act on the virus itself to eradicate it from the body, unlike older medicines like interferon injections which work by stimulating an immune response. These new treatments are very effective and can achieve cure rates of over 90%. In most situations now, there is no need for interferon, which was responsible for many of the side effects previously associated with HCV treatment. The new treatment combinations require shorter treatment durations (between 8 to 24 weeks), have reduced side effects and appear to be effective at all stages of the disease.
Because these new therapies are very new, they remain very expensive. As such, drug coverage from both government and private companies may require that your liver disease has progressed to a certain stage before they are willing to cover the cost of these drugs.
Your primary care physician may refer you to a specialist to determine whether you are eligible for treatment. A specialist will help you decide which drug therapy is best for you based on the severity of your liver disease, your virus genotype and whether or not you have been treated in the past.
If you are not presently eligible for treatment, it is important that you make sure to have your liver monitored at least once a year to follow the progression of the disease. You are strongly advised to have regular check-ups of your liver. Although liver failure and cancer can be the end results of this disease, your physician can identify liver changes long before this happens. Treating HCV drastically reduces these outcomes.
No alternative therapies which include herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, and minerals have been proven safe and effective for treatment of hepatitis C. Be sure to tell your health care provider what medications and alternative therapies you are taking.
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New therapies called direct acting antivirals (DAAs) are effective and can achieve cures of over 90%. Because these new therapies are very new, they remain very expensive. As such, drug coverage from both government and private companies may require that your liver disease has progressed to a certain stage before they are willing to cover the cost of these drugs.
Talk with your healthcare provider about financial support that may be available.
Below are useful resources when looking for financial assistance:
If you have private health insurance or a drug plan at work, you may be able to have the medication paid through your plan. Please consult your private health insurance or drug plan provider to see if your drug is covered.
Each provincial and territorial government offers a drug benefit plan for eligible groups. Some are income-based universal programs. Most have specific programs for population groups that may require more enhanced coverage for high drug costs. These groups include seniors, recipients of social assistance, and individuals with diseases or conditions that are associated with high drug costs. For more details, please contact your provincial or territorial health care ministry, or click on the appropriate link below.
• Alberta (Prescription Drug Programs)
• British Columbia (Pharmacare)
• Manitoba (Pharmacare Program)
• New Brunswick (Prescription Drug Program)
• Newfoundland (Pharmaceutical Services)
• Northwest Territories (Drug coverage)
• Nova Scotia (Pharmacare)
• Nunavut (Drug coverage)
• Ontario (Drug Benefit Program)
• Prince Edward Island (Drug Cost Assistance Programs)
• Quebec (Prescription Drug Insurance)
• Saskatchewan (Drug Plan)
• Yukon (Insured Health)
Non-Insured Health Benefits for First Nations and Inuit
Health Canada’s Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program provides coverage for a limited range of health care services when they are not insured elsewhere. For more information, please call 1-800-317-7878.
Pharmaceutical companies have developed programs that provide support services for patients and healthcare providers:
Patients prescribed Holkira Pak (paritaprevir/ritonavir/ombitasvir/dasabuvir) can request to be enrolled in AbbVie Care. For more information, contact your healthcare provider or the program at 1-844-471-2273.
Gilead Sciences Canada’s Momentum Support Program
Patients prescribed Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir) or Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) can request to be enrolled in the Gilead Momentum Support Program. For more information, contact your healthcare provider or the program at 1-855-447-7977.
Ibavyr Patient Support Program
Patients prescribed ribavirin (Ibavyr) as part of their hepatitis C treatment can request to be enrolled in the Ibavyr Patient Support Program. For more information, contact your healthcare provider or the program at 1-844-602-6858.
Patients prescribed Galexos (simeprevir) can request to be enrolled in Janssen’s Galexos Bioadvance Program. For more information, contact your healthcare provider or call the program at 1-855-512-3740.
Patients prescribed Victrelis, pegylated interferon and ribavirin (Pegasys), or Victrelis with pegylated interferon and ribavirin (Victrelis Triple) can request to be enrolled in the MerckCare Program. For more information, contact your healthcare provider or the program at 1-866-872-5773.
PEGAssist Patient Support Program
Patients prescribed pegylated interferon (Pegasys) as part of their hepatitis C treatment can request to be enrolled in the PEGAssist Program. For more information, contact your healthcare provider or the program at 1-877-734-2797.
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|| Sharon's story
|| Lance's story
|2015 CLF PSA||*1 Min. Video||*4 Min. Video|
| *Jordan Feld MD, MPH
||** Hep C basics
||***How do you get it?
*Videos shared with permission by Canadian Health & Family
**Video shared with permission by the Gastrointestinal Society, learn more at www.badgut.org
***Video courtesy of Streaming Well and based on UK facts and stats.
The information provided here – as well as more information on how to manage chronic hepatitis C – is available in the Canadian Liver Foundation’s hepatitis C pamphlet and in our ‘LIVERight: Healthy Living with Viral Hepatitis’ booklet. These and other CLF publications are available for download in the Publications Library or by calling 1-800-563-5483 or emailing email@example.com
The CLF offers Living with Liver Disease programs for people living with hepatitis C and others forms of liver disease. You can also help others with hepatitis C by volunteering or donating in support of the CLF's research and education programs.
To read about research projects on viral hepatitis click here
To make a donation to support liver health research, click here
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