Hepatitis C FAQs

How do I know if I have hepatitis C?
Most people who have hepatitis C don’t know they have hepatitis C. This is because, in most cases, there are no obvious symptoms in the 20 to 30 years following infection. The best thing you can do is figure out if you are at risk of ever being in contact with hepatitis C. You can do this by reading the ‘Who is at risk?’ section of this website. If you think you might be at risk, you should talk to your doctor or the Hepatitis Foundation about getting tested.

 

What tests are needed to find out if I have hepatitis C?
Two blood tests are required to diagnose chronic hepatitis C.

  • Antibody test: The first blood test looks for antibodies and confirms whether you have ever been in contact with the hepatitis C virus. If this test is positive, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are currently infected with hepatitis C, it means you have been infected at some point.
  • PCR test: The second blood test confirms if the virus is currently present in your body and whether you are currently infected with hepatitis C.

 

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?
Many people with hepatitis C have no symptoms. However, for people who do experience symptoms, the most common include tiredness (fatigue), joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea or abdominal pain.

 

Can people be cured of hepatitis C?
Yes. Currently two thirds of people with hepatitis C can be cured. There are publicly-funded (free) treatments available in New Zealand. For more information about these treatments click here.

 

Who should I tell?

You do not have to tell anyone you have hepatitis, however you must take reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of the virus to others.

You may choose to share your diagnosis with particular people for support. It is often best to tell people you trust or people directly affected, such as household members or sexual partners.

Telling healthcare workers such as a doctor or nurse may be beneficial for good health care (e.g. prescribing the most appropriate medications). Health care workers, including dentists, are required to use standard infection control precautions for all situations and procedures that may involve exposure to blood or other bodily fluids, regardless of whether you have hepatitis or not.

 

Do I need to tell my employer? 

People living with hepatitis do not have to tell employers, unless you work in an environment that may put others at risk, such as healthcare. However, disclosure is not mandatory. Discrimination against people with hepatitis in the workplace is illegal.

 

Managing the spread of hepatitis in the workplace

  • Chronic HBV & HCV are not notifiable diseases so you have no legal obligation to inform anyone of their status
  • Health care workers with hepatitis must not perform exposure prone procedures.
  • You are required to take precautions to prevent transmission to others. (Not expose others to their blood/sexual fluids).
  • Everyone should be treated as if their blood is infectious – 50 per cent of people with hepatitis B/C may not even know they have hepatitis.
  • Workplace first aiders should use universal precautions when dealing with others body fluids.
  • When possible people should clean up their own blood. Clean up blood with bleach – 10 per cent solution.

 

Can women with hepatitis C have children? 
Yes. Women have a very low risk (5% chance) of passing hepatitis C on to their baby before or during birth. If the baby is born with hepatitis C, there is a 45% chance they will clear the virus naturally within the first 12 months. Women can safely breastfeed their baby, but should temporarily stop if they have cracked or bleeding nipples.

I need a Fibroscan for immigration purposes, where do I get a Fibroscan from?

Currently the Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand is unable to provide Fibroscans for immigration purposes. If you require a Fibroscan for Immigration NZ, these can be requested by your GP or private specialist. Click here for a list of centres where you can get a FibroScan.

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© The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand 2016