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Hepatitis C Frequently Asked Questions 

Q – Is there a vaccination for hepatitis C?

A – No there is no a vaccination for hepatitis C

Q – Can hepatitis C be cured?

A – Yes, treatment therapies, which have a 95% success rate in eliminating hepatitis C have been listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and are available for all people living with hepatitis C over the age of 18 and who have a Medicare Card, in Australia.

However, the particular combination of medicines used will depend on a range of individual factors.

Currently Direct Acting Antiviral medications for genotypes 1, 2 and 3 are available. These are 8 or 12 week regimes.

The other genotypes – 4, 5, and 6 are treatable with other medications and have a good response rate, but include the older type of treatment that take longer.

Hopefully new medications will be available in Australia before long for these genotypes as well. Learn more: www.befreefromhepc.org.au 

Q – What sort of test is used to detect hepatitis C?

A – There are two types of blood tests that are used to diagnose hepatitis C.  

Antibody testing is the first test used to see if the body is producing any hepatitis C antibodies.  During the first three months after any exposure to hep C, hep C antibody testing may not provide an accurate result.

It can take up to three months for your body to produce enough hep C antibodies to be detectable in the test. This is known as the “window period”. If this test is positive after three months, a second blood test – a PCR – is taken to confirm whether the hepatitis C virus is present in the blood stream. 

PCR test tests for the virus itself. This second test is much more accurate, and can actually detect the virus within 6 weeks of exposure. 

If you test positive for an antibody test, but negative for a PCR test, this determine the virus is not present in the blood stream, and this means that your body has spontaneously cleared itself of the virus. 

Q – Can I get reinfected with hepatitis C?

A – Yes.  Having had hepatitis C in the past does not provide you with immunity from being infected again, so it is possible to be reinfected with hepatitis C even if you have previously cleared it, with or without treatment.    

Some studies have shown that reinfection is more likely to occur for people who are also HIV positive.

Reinfection can be avoided by reducing risky activities that have the potential to expose one to the hepatitis C virus, such as, sharing needles or any of the injecting equipment, including spoons and tourniquets, or any activities, which have the potential for blood-to-blood contact.

Q – Can hepatitis C be transmitted through sex?

A – Transmission of hepatitis C occurs through blood-to-blood contact. While hepatitis C is not normally classified as a sexually transmissible infection (STI), and while exposure through sex is not common, it can occur if sexual activity includes any direct blood-to-blood contact.  

You should talk to your GP or health specialist about risk factors and how to minimise them. Or you can call the Hepatitis Infoline to speak with a hepatitis educator. 

Q – Can I pass on hepatitis C to my family or household contact/s?

A – While household transmission of hepatitis C is extremely rare, there are a number of possible ways by which hepatitis C could be transmitted from one person to another in a household setting.  Because the virus is carried in the blood, it could be transmitted between household members were to come in contact with blood containing hepatitis C.

Be careful to avoid sharing razors, toothbrushes, toothpicks or any personal grooming items that may break the skin and cause bleeding.

If an item was contaminated with hepatitis C-infected blood from one person, the virus could be passed to a second person if it were to tear the lining of the mouth or break through the skin.

You should speak with your GP if you have any concerns.  For peace of mind they can arrange for your family or household members to be tested.

Q – I have hepatitis C.  Should I tell my partner?

A – You are not legally obliged to disclose your hepatitis C status, because it is not classified as a sexually transmissible infection. However, there may be ethical, moral and trust questions within your relationship that you may wish to consider. 

Q – Can I get hepatitis C through sharing drugs that don’t involve the use of needles?

A – Hepatitis C is transmitted from blood-to-blood. Some ways that this can happen in the context of drug taking can include the sharing of snorting equipment (e.g. bank notes, straws, etc.), or any injecting equipment which includes, but is not limited to needles, such as tourniquets, spoons or swabs.

While the risk is much lower, you can be exposed to the virus through the sharing of this equipment, which may be carry traces of blood from a person with hep C.  

Q – Can someone with hepatitis C still have children?

A – Yes. The virus does not impact on fertility or function.  Transmission to baby from a mother with hepatitis C is extremely low, and there are ways to reduce this risk even further.

One issue that needs to be considered is whether to be treated for hepatitis C before or after having children.  If planning a family hepatitis C treatment is not recommended as the current treatments cannot be taken during pregnancy, 

Q – If I’ve been exposed, how long will it be before I have symptoms or any sign of hep C?

A – You can have hep C yet not show any symptoms for years.  So if you think that you may have been exposed to the virus it is important to get tested.  

It can take up to three months for antibodies to appear in your body, so you should speak to your GP about scheduling a test.

Once diagnosed and if you are not undertaking treatment for hepatitis C it is important to have regular liver health check-ups to ensure that you are not developing liver disease.