09th Oct 2017

Hep C: What do you really know?

People living with hepatitis C suffer more than most from mis-information. Many myths around hepatitis C have reinforced the stigma that surrounds this disease. This can leave people feeling too ashamed and embarrassed to seek the care they need. How much do you really know about this disease? In this post we are going to explore some of the most commonly believed myths and the facts about hep C.

Hep C is Untreatable…

Treatments for hep C have been around for a long time. Advances in treatment over the past few years have improved the success rates and reduced the number of side effects, meaning that a cure is now possible for most people with hep C.

If you would like more information on your treatment options and care, seek help and support from a doctor or other healthcare professionals.

If I had it, I would know it…

It is estimated over 200,000 people in the UK are infected with hepatitis C, but around half are unaware that they have it. Many of these people will be over the age of 50 and may have no or few specific symptoms.1 This is a major public health problem as many patients will go years or even decades with no symptoms. However, hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer and often people who are infected will only become aware of it when these complications develop. These are far more serious than the initial infection and far more difficult to treat.

You can catch hep C by sharing food with someone who is infected…

Hepatitis C virus is not spread by sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. It is also not spread through food or water. In very rare cases it can be passed on during sex with someone who is hep C positive but it is primarily transmitted through contact with infected blood.

You can tell if someone has hep C just by looking at them…

Without testing, it is not possible to tell if someone has hepatitis C because in three quarters of cases the disease presents with no specific symptoms. Additionally, this disease affects people from all walks of life; while most people will have been infected through intravenous drug use, even if that was a single event in their life, many contracted it through blood transfusions or an organ donation in the 1980s, tattoos in unclean environments and medical procedures in countries with risky healthcare practices. If you have hepatitis C you should not feel ashamed by this. You have the same right to treatment as those suffering from any other disease, regardless of how you contracted it.

Hep C is symptomless…

Whilst only one in 4 people will experience symptoms, hep C begins with an acute phase in which a range of mild, flu-like symptoms can appear. These include: 2

  • Feeling very tired
  • Sore muscles
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea or poor appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Itchy skin
  • Dark urine

Only drug addicts get hep C…

Whilst using intravenous drugs is one of the most common ways to get infected, there are a range of factors that can lead to contracting hepatitis C. These are:3

  • Needlestick injuries
  • Sharing razors or toothbrushes
  • Sexual contact
  • Tattoos and piercings in unclean environments
  • Mother to baby transmission during childbirth
  • Hairdressers and barbers through injury from unsterilised equipment
  • Intravenous drug use
  • Dialysis
  • Blood transfusions, blood products and organ transplants in the 70s, 80s and early 90s

Hep C is rare and very few people die from it…

Around 214,000 people in the UK are infected with hepatitis C, that’s around five times the number of people suffering from lung cancer. Globally around 400,000 people die from hepatitis C each year.4 This is despite the fact that there are now treatments which cure more than 90 in every hundred patients.







1 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/public-health-england-encourages-hepatitis-c-testing
2 http://hepc.liverfoundation.org/diagnosis/symptoms-of-hep-c/
3 http://www.hepctrust.org.uk/risk-factors
4 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs164/en/
5 https://www.hepmag.com/article/Stigma-EASL-27223-1318674202