Hepatitis C FAQs
As a GP can I treat Hepatitis C?
Yes. GPs can treat patients with hepatitis C. It is very straightforward. The new treatments are all oral, usually taken once a day for as little as 8 weeks (sometimes longer), and generally very well tolerated.
Treatment may need to be undertaken in consultation with a specialist by phone, fax or email. There is an example of a standard remote consultation form. Once you have the approval from a specialist it is a standard call to the PBS Authority Line.
Can Hepatitis C be cured?
Yes, treatment therapies, which have a 95% or higher 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 15 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 all genotypes are available. These are 8 or 12 week regimes and may be longer if the liver is damaged.
Learn more: www.befreefromhepc.org.au
Can Hepatitis C be transmitted through sex?
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.
Can I get Hepatitis C through sharing drugs that don’t involve the use of needles?
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.
Can I get reinfected with Hepatitis C?
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.
Can I pass on Hepatitis C to my family or household contact/s?
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, this form of transmission is rare, but be blood aware.
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.
Can someone with Hepatitis C still have children?
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.
Speak to your doctor is you have Hepatitis C and are planning a family, you can be cured with treatment in as little as 8 weeks. The current treatments cannot be taken during pregnancy.
Do GPs need to undertake any special training to treat patients with Hepatitis C?
The only requirement is that you treat a patient in consultation with a specialist unless you are experienced. However, for those interested in further training there are a range of options:
How is a diagnosis of Hepatitis C confirmed?
People need to be both antibody and PCR positive to confirm a diagnosis of hepatitis C. Antibody positive alone only confirms exposure at some point.
It does not mean the virus is still present in their blood.
Also the genotype must be known to determine the most appropriate treatment though Pan-Genotypic medicines are suitable for all genotypes.
I have Hepatitis C. Should I tell my partner?
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.
Is there a vaccination for Hepatitis C?
No there is no vaccination for hepatitis C
What sort of test is used to detect Hepatitis C?
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, 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.