Hepatitis B (HBV) & Hepatitis C (HCV) are a blood-borne viruses that spreads from person to person by contact with infected blood and other body fluids. Hepatitis viruses primarily affect the liver. They can cause inflammation of and sometimes significant damage to the liver and can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, primary liver cancer or liver failure and even death, yet are treatable and preventable.

The Hepatitis B & C Managed Clinical Network was established to assist in reducing the impact of HBV and HCV on the population of Northern Ireland by strengthening current services through improved joint working across disciplines. The Network is made up of representation from service users and professionals across a wide range of areas including, acute services (hepatologists, gastroenterologists with an interest in hepatology, specialist nurses, virologists), service commissioners, primary care, drug and alcohol services, health promotion, pharmacy and prison services.

What is Hepatitis C

 

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C is a virus which is carried in the bloodstream to the liver. It can then affect and damage your liver. It can cause inflammation (swelling) and fibrosis (scarring) of the liver tissue, and sometimes significant liver damage. It may subsequently lead to cancer of the liver and possible death.

In Northern Ireland there are more than 2500 people known to be infected, however a large proportion of people remain unaware that they have the virus.

Many people do not realize they have been infected with the virus because they may not have any symptoms, or they may have flu-like symptoms that can easily be mistaken for another illness.

  

There are six types of hepatitis C virus, which all have different genes. These different types are called genotypes and they are numbered 1 to 6.

Almost all people in the UK who have hepatitis C have genotype 1, genotype 2, or genotype 3.

It is important to know which type you have as different types respond differently to treatment. It is possible to be infected with more than one type of hepatitis C at the same time. 

Vaccine

There is currently no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. This is because the hepatitis C virus mutates (changes into a different strain) very easily, which makes it hard to create a vaccine, and the virus has different genotypes (genetic variants).

Further Information

Summary

  • It is a blood borne virus.
  • It affects the liver.
  • It can be spread through sharing injecting equipment.
  • Never share toothbrushes, razors or other personal items.
  • It can survive in blood outside the body.
  • 1 in 4 infected will clear the virus themselves.
  • There is no vaccine available
  • There is treatment available which can help.
  • You can catch it more than once.

NOTE: 

Please read on and if you think that you could be infected, then please see your doctor or go to your local Sexual health/Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) clinic and request a test to screen for hepatitis C.

For further information regarding where to get tested, please refer to the help and support section of this website

Other useful Websites

Hepatitis C -An epidemic for anyone

Help Every Person C

Hepatitis C Trust

Hepatitis C Scotland

Hits Sheffield - access to hepatitis information and related videos 

NHS Choices - Hepatitis C. Get Tested -Get treated.

NHS Choices - Hepatitis C

The Haemophilia Society