Hepatitis C. A serious disease that comes without warning.
Hepatitis C is referred to as the silent disease because people infected often don't show signs of illness. They can go for years not knowing they are carrying this potentially fatal virus – and potentially possibly spreading it to others. Undiagnosed and untreated, hepatitis C can lead to a variety of serious health issues including cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer or even death.
Think you couldn't have Hepatitis C? Think again. Hepatitis C is a serious health issue in Canada. There are an estimated 250,000 Canadians living with hepatitis C and up to 44% of those infected don't know they have the disease. They could be your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend, a family member – or it could be you.
Hepatitis C. Who's at risk?
Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact. That means hepatitis C cannot be spread through casual contact, sneezing, shaking hands or hugging. However, there are people who are at higher risk:
- Those born between 1945 and 1975
- Intravenous drug users
- People who get piercings or tattoos
- People who have been in prison
- People who had blood transfusions, blood products, or organ donations before 1990
Hepatitis C doesn't come with a warning.
As common as hepatitis C is, it's a disease that rarely comes with a warning. Unlike many other contagious diseases, hepatitis C has no obvious signs when it's passed to someone. Therefore, those infected rarely know they have it. This makes hepatitis C insidious – and by the time it has been detected, it's done a lot of damage.
Often times, people who are recently infected with hepatitis C will feel symptoms that can be easily confused with a cold or flu, or just being run down. These include:
- Reduced appetite
- Sore muscles and joints
- Abdominal pain
- Jaundice (a yellow look to the whites of your eyes and skin)
If you notice any of these signs it's important to speak to your health care provider as soon as possible. The earlier there is a diagnosis, the more effective the treatment. If left undiagnosed and untreated, over time hepatitis C can inflict progressive damage on the liver and can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and even liver cancer.
Is Hepatitis hepatitis C a death sentence?
No. As a matter of fact, there have been huge strides in treating – and even curing – hepatitis C. In up to 99% of cases, successful treatment and cures can be expected. However, the key to winning the battle against this disease is to get tested.
The Canadian Liver Foundation is committed to eliminating hepatitis C in Canada. Are you in?
Incredibly, 30 years ago, hepatitis C didn't even have a name. Now, it's easily found diagnosed with a simple blood test, treatable and curable in most cases. We're even getting closer to a vaccine. If you haven't already, get tested for hepatitis C and know your status. Let's make hepatitis C a thing of the past.
To learn more about Hepatitis C visit our Hep C Resource Centre.
The Canadian Liver Foundation acknowledges the following organization for providing unrestricted educational grants to support the CLF's mission of "Bringing liver research to life" to benefit the liver health of all Canadians through research, education, patient support and advocacy.