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Viral Hepatitis

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This site contains HIV prevention messages that might not be appropriate for all audiences. Since HIV infection is spread primarily through sexual practices or by sharing needles, prevention messages and programs on this website may address these topics.  If you are not seeking such information or may be offended by such materials, please exit this website.

The OSDH HIV/STD Service provides hepatitis B & C prevention activities, including but not limited to, education, vaccination and Perinatal hepatitis B prevention activities.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver.  The liver processes  nutrients, filters the blood and fights infections.  When the liver is inflamed or damaged, how it works can be impacted.

Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus.  In the U.S., the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.  Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications and certain medical conditions can also cause hepatitis.

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. When first infected, a person can develop an "acute" infection, which can range in severity from a very mild illness with few or no symptoms to a serious condition requiring hospitalization.

Acute Hepatitis C is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For reasons that are not known, 15%-25% of people "clear" the virus without treatment. Approximately 75%-85% of people who become infected with the Hepatitis C virus develop "chronic," or lifelong, infection.

Chronic Hepatitis C is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in a person's body. Over time, it can lead to serious liver problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer.

How is Hepatitis C spread?

Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with Hepatitis C by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992, Hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Although uncommon, outbreaks of Hepatitis C have occurred from blood contamination in medical settings.

Can Hepatitis C be spread through sex?

Yes, although scientists do not know how frequently this occurs. Having a sexually transmitted disease or HIV, sex with multiple partners, or rough sex appears to increase a person’s risk for Hepatitis C. There also appears to be an increased risk for sexual transmission of Hepatitis C among gay men who are HIV-positive

Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis C?

Although there is currently no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C, research is being conducted to develop one.

If you are in need of more information about Hepatitis C or have questions, please go to the resources page, send us an email or call the HIV/STD Service at 405-271-4636.

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