Regional district health boards manage hepatitis C patient services. If you think you have hepatitis C or would like to access treatment, please contact your GP. If you have any questions about hepatitis C or would like to talk to someone, please call us on 0800 33 20 10.
The hepatitis C (HCV) virus is spread through blood-to-blood contact and leads to inflammation of the liver. There is no vaccine to prevent HCV infection, however in many cases it can be cured.
In New Zealand about 50,000 people have chronic hepatitis C. Only half of these people are aware they have the virus.
Acute hepatitis C occurs when a person is infected with HCV for less than six months. One out of every three people infected clear the virus within six months. The others go on to have chronic hepatitis C.
The virus causes inflammation of the liver, which affects the way the liver works. The liver is an important organ that does many tasks essential for life and growth. If left untreated, HCV can result in a lot of scarring in the liver (cirrhosis), which stops the liver working properly. Liver damage can lead to liver cancer or liver failure.
Please read our information sheet for more detail about the liver.
Many people with HCV have no symptoms. It is often referred to as a silent epidemic because people commonly don’t notice any symptoms until 20 or 30 years after infection. Any symptoms that do appear are usually mild and non-specific. The most common symptoms include:
You do not have to tell anyone you have hepatitis, but you should 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 health care 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.
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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.
Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact. It is highly infectious and can survive outside the body for more than seven days. Those most at risk of HCV are people who:
There are two blood tests needed to diagnose chronic hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact. To avoid infecting others you should take the following steps:
Regular monitoring is important to assess the health of your liver. Blood tests can detect liver disease. If there is liver damage your GP can refer you to your local gastroenterology service for further assessment.