Common Hepatitis C Myths

Hepatitis C Myths

How common is hepatitis C?

The myth
Hepatitis C is rare.
The truth
False. An estimated 170 million people worldwide and over 230,000 Australians and particularly in Victoria, 60,000 people are living with chronic hepatitis C.
The myth
Teenagers are most likely to have Hep C.
The truth
Approximately 60% of new infections are in people aged 15 – 29 years of age. It is important that young people understand the risk factors and transmission pathways of hepatitis.
Hepatitis C Myths

Transmission

The myth
Hepatitis C can be spread through coughing, kissing, or shaking hands.
The truth
No, casual contact with someone who has hepatitis C will not expose you to infection. It is recommended that you not share toothbrushes or shaving equipment as there is a remote possibility of blood from these objects causing transmission.
The myth
Hepatitis C can affect only the liver.
The truth
Though it primarily attacks the liver, hepatitis C can also have effects on other parts of the body (brain, blood vessels, pancreas, and kidneys). This is normally when the disease is more progressed.
The myth
Hepatitis C takes a long time before it starts to damage your liver.
The truth
In some hepatitis C positive people, deterioration can be quite rapid. This of course is not the norm, but can happen.

Liver damage can be exacerbated by lifestyle choices such as consuming excessive alcohol or having a high fat diet or little exercise.
The myth
Everyone who has a tattoo or a piercing ends up getting infected with Hepatitis C
The truth
False. Your chances of having problems at a licensed, commercial facility are slim. But tattoos or piercings done with non sterile instruments can spread hepatitis C.

If you get a tattoo or piercing, look for a facility that has all single-use items like gloves, needles, and ink pots.
The myth
Hepatitis C is a sexually transmitted disease.
The truth
Hepatitis C is transmitted by blood-to-blood exposure. However, like many myths, this one is grounded in some truth. Hepatitis C can be transmitted sexually, but the risk is very low.

It is difficult to study sexual transmission of hepatitis C, but the majority of studies conducted to date have shown a 0-3% chance of contracting hepatitis C through unprotected sex in stable monogamous heterosexual relationships.

Transmission is more likely when blood is present or if there is HIV co-infection.
Hepatitis C Myths

Prevention

The myth
There’s a vaccine for hepatitis C
The truth
Although vaccines are available to prevent the spread of hepatitis A and B, there isn’t one developed yet for hepatitis C. If you are living with hepatitis C, experts recommend that you get tested and vaccinated for hepatitis A and B.
Hepatitis C Myths

Symptoms

The myth
“I have fever and always feel tired. Do I have hepatitis C?”
The truth
Although vaccines are available to prevent the spread of hepatitis A and B, there isn’t one developed yet for hepatitis C. If you are living with hepatitis C, experts recommend that you get tested and vaccinated for hepatitis A and B
Hepatitis C Myths

Treatment

The myth
A diagnosis of hepatitis C is akin to a death sentence.
The truth
No, a cure for hepatitis C is readily available, and clinical trials show that in many cases the liver can repair itself once the virus is eliminated.
The myth
Once you’ve been treated for hepatitis C, you can’t get it again.
The truth
After successful treatment for hepatitis C, you can still be infected again. Ongoing risk factors such as injecting drug use or non-sterile tattooing can result in reinfection.
The myth
Hepatitis C will go away without treatment.
The truth
About 80% of people who are exposed to hepatitis C will develop a chronic infection. A percentage will clear the virus without treatment.

For everyone else, though, hepatitis C turns into a chronic, or long-term, disease. And over time, untreated hepatitis C can lead to health problems like cirrhosis, cancer, and liver failure.
Hepatitis C Myths

Privacy

The myth
“You should disclose your hepatitis C status to everyone”
The truth
It is not incumbent on you to disclose your hepatitis C status, except in rare circumstances (joining armed forces, performing exposure prone procedures, taking health insurance, donating blood, and in some forms of martial arts).

Stigma & Discrimination

People who live with a liver condition such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C, have reported been discriminated against.

LiverLine
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LiverWELL, trading as Hepatitis Victoria is the peak community organisation working across the state for people affected by, or at risk of, liver disease and viral hepatitis.

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