Kentucky leads the nation in hepatitis C infections. Chronic hepatitis C infection can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. Thankfully, it can be cured.
Since 2011, significant advances in the treatment of hepatitis C infections have paved the way for 99% cure rates regardless of duration of infection, fibrosis status, dialysis status, transplant, and/or HIV status.
The UofL Health Hep C Center leads our area in providing compassionate care, advocacy, access to curative hepatitis C treatments, liver assessment with Fibroscan, and world-class specialty pharmacy services. There is no longer a need to worry about liver biopsies, interferon side effects, or stigma. All hepatitis C infected patients benefit from referral, regardless of age, and active or recent drug/alcohol use.
Concerned about cost? Treatment is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most commercial insurance plans with little out-of-pocket costs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Hep C?
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus. Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. For some people, hepatitis C is a short-term illness but for 70%–85% of people who become infected with Hepatitis C, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease than can result in long-term health problems, even death. The majority of infected persons might not be aware of their infection because they are not they have no symptoms.
There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. The best way to prevent Hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injecting drugs.
Who is at risk for Hepatitis C?
Some people are at increased risk for Hepatitis C, including:
- Current injection drug users (currently the most common way Hepatitis C virus is spread in the United States)
- Past injection drug users, including those who injected only one time or many years ago
- Recipients 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)
- People who received a blood product for clotting problems made before 1987
- Hemodialysis patients or persons who spent many years on dialysis for kidney failure
- People who received body piercing or tattoos done with non-sterile instruments
- People with known exposures to the Hepatitis C virus, such as
- Health care workers injured by needle sticks
- Recipients of blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for the Hepatitis C virus
- HIV-infected persons
- Children born to mothers infected with the Hepatitis C virus
What are the symptoms of acute Hepatitis C?
Approximately 70%–80% of people with acute Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. Some people, however, can have mild to severe symptoms soon after being infected, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or eyes)
How serious is chronic Hepatitis C?
Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death. It is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States. Approximately 19,000 people die every year from hepatitis C-related liver disease.
Who should get tested for Hepatitis C?
Talk to your doctor about being tested for Hepatitis C if any of the following are true:
- You were born from 1945 through 1965
- You are a current or former injection drug user, even if you injected only one time or many years ago.
- You were treated for a blood clotting problem before 1987.
- You received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992.
- You are on long-term hemodialysis treatment.
- You have abnormal liver tests or liver disease.
- You work in health care or public safety and were exposed to blood through a needle stick or other sharp object injury.
- You are infected with HIV or hepatitis B.
Can you get Hepatitis C by getting a tattoo or piercing?
A few major research studies have not shown Hepatitis C to be spread through licensed, commercial tattooing facilities. However, transmission of Hepatitis C (and other infectious diseases) is possible when poor infection-control practices are used during tattooing or piercing. Body art is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, and unregulated tattooing and piercing are known to occur in prisons and other informal or unregulated settings. Further research is needed to determine if these types of settings and exposures are responsible for Hepatitis C virus transmission.