Hepatitis C

  • Virus that affects liver

Signs and Symptoms

Most people have no symptoms. In some people, the only symptom is fatigue. Other symptoms include:

  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Weight loss


The virus is spread through infected blood. Common ways include:

  • Receiving blood and/or blood products prior to 1990
  • Sharing any equipment for injecting or snorting drugs such as needles, straws, rolled up bills, crack pipes

Less common ways include:

  • Sexual contact with partner infected with Hepatitis C
  • Tattoos or body piercings with unsterilized equipment
  • Blood contact and/or needlestick injuries (E.g. healthcare workers)
  • Shared personal hygiene articles
  • Infected mothers (child infected through birth)


Some people will recover fully from the virus. But most will remain infected for life.  Often there are no symptoms until very late in the course of the disease.  It is a slow and silent virus that may take 20 or 30 years to cause liver damage.  Hepatitis C is a major health concern because it can cause long-term liver damage and can be fatal in some cases by causing cirrhosis and liver cancer.


  • Review possible treatment options with your doctor.
    • Make sure a doctor is regularly monitoring you and providing you with access to specialists
  • Eat well and healthy (follow Canada’s Food Guide)
  • Restrict/avoid alcohol (may worsen or speed up liver damage)
  • Review over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements with your doctor as some medications may be hard on the liver
  • Talk about the need for hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines
    • If you have hepatitis C you can receive hepatitis A and B vaccines free of charge
    • Talk to your doctor or contact the health unit


  • Incomplete recovery (most remain infected for life)
  • Liver damage (including cirrhosis, cancer) over long term
  • Death


  • Do not touch or handle blood without wearing gloves
  • Clean blood spills using bleach
  • Practice good basic hygiene; do not share toothbrushes, razors or nail cutters
  • Never share needles or other equipment for injecting drugs or steroids
  • Never share equipment for snorting drugs (E.g. straws, rolled bills, crack pipes, etc.)
  • Practice safer sex (always use a condom during sexual intercourse)

In a long-term, one partner relationship, the risk of passing the virus to your partner is low; the risk increases if there is sex causing bleeding, anal sex or sex during a woman’s menstrual period. Discuss these risks with your partner; your partner may want to be tested.

Life with Hepatitis C

  • Learn more and take charge of your health
  • Talk to your doctor or health unit
  • Contact community resources (see below)
  • Remember you are not alone

Hepatitis C is a reportable disease and must be reported to the Local Medical Officer of Health under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

This information is for general knowledge only and does not replace professional medical advice. For diagnosis or treatment of any disease or infection listed, please contact your healthcare provider. For more information contact us at 519-753-4937 ext. 454 or email@bchu.org.