Hepatitis C

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Learn The Basics

Hepatitis C is a virus that injures the liver.

The liver is a very important organ in your body. It helps the body fight infections, break down toxins (poisons) and drugs, digest food, and more. You can’t live without it.

You could have Hepatitis C and not even know it.

You can live with hepatitis C for 20 to 30 years or more without feeling sick even though the virus is injuring the liver. Over time, the injury to the liver gets worse, making it hard for this organ to work properly.

For more about hepatitis C and what it does to the body, visit CATIE’s complete guide; Intro to hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C statistics

The epidemiology of hepatitis C in Canada – Visit the CATIE fact sheet to learn more hepatitis C in Canada.

Testing is the only way to find out if you have hepatitis.

It usually takes two blood tests to tell whether you have hepatitis C. The first test (an antibody test) checks to see if you have ever come in contact with the virus. The second test (a PCR or RNA test) checks to see if you have a hepatitis C infection right now.

For more on hepatitis C testing, please visit CATIE-  Testing for hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is passed blood to blood.

The virus gets into the blood through breaks in the skin or in the lining of the nose and mouth. Hepatitis C is a strong virus: it can live outside of the body for many days. This means dried blood can also pass the virus.

The main ways hepatitis C can get inside the body:

  • Re-using drug equipment that was used by someone else. This includes needles, syringes, filters, cookers, acidifiers, alcohol swabs, tourniquets, water, pipes for smoking crack or crystal meth, and straws for snorting.
  • Re-using tools for piercing and tattooing, including needles, ink and ink pots. Also re-using tools for electrolysis or acupuncture.
  • Re-using medical equipment that was meant to be used only once, such as needles for vaccines or medicines, or medical equipment that was not cleaned properly before reuse.
  • Getting a blood transfusion or organ transplant that was not screened for Hepatitis C. In Canada, donated blood has been screened for Hepatitis C since 1990. In some other countries, blood was not able to be screened until more recently.

Other ways hepatitis C can get inside the body:

  • Sharing or borrowing personal care items that might have blood on them, such as razors, nail clippers and toothbrushes.
  • Having anal sex without a condom, especially when blood is present or when one of the partners has HIV or another sexually transmitted infection.

For more on how hepatitis C gets passed on from person to person, please visit CATIE:

(https://www.catie.ca/en/practical-guides/hepc-in-depth/what-hep-c/what-is-risky)

For ways to prevent hepatitis C visit CATIE:

(https://www.catie.ca/en/practical-guides/hepc-in-depth/prevention-harm-reduction)

Treatment can cure hepatitis C

About one in four people clear hepatitis C without treatment, but most people need treatment to cure hepatitis C. Treatment cures almost everyone. It comes in pill form, has few side effects, and is often taken for as short as 8 or 12 weeks. Everyone who has Hep C should talk to their healthcare provider about their options.

For more information on curing hepatitis C, visit CATIE’s hepatitis C Treatment page. 

To book an appointment with ACNBA for testing or treatment, please contact us at 705-497-3560

Hepatitis C Testing

You can get tested for Hepatitis C at any time. If you think you have been exposed to Hepatitis C, you have to wait for 3 months before getting tested, otherwise the results may not be accurate.
Testing for Hepatitis C is done through 2 blood tests.

  1. Antibody Testing – This first test tells us if you have ever been exposed to Hepatitis C by looking to see if your body has antibodies to fight against the virus.  1 in 4 people are able to clear the virus without treatment.
  2. Hepatitis C RNA – Tells us if you have the virus.  If this test comes back positive it will also tell us what genotype of Hepatitis C you have.

Hepatitis C Treatment

Treatment cures over 95% of people with hepatitis C. Talk to your nurse or doctor about your treatment options.

  • Treatment comes in pill form, has few side effects, and is usually taken for eight or 12 weeks.
  • For most people, the cost of treatment is covered through public health insurance plans (provincial, territorial or federal). If you have private insurance from a job, your plan should cover the cost of treatment.
  • Getting cured of hepatitis C can make your life better. The hepatitis C virus can no longer injure your liver, helping to prevent liver failure and lowering your chances of getting liver cancer.
  • You can get hepatitis C again after you are cured if the virus gets into your blood.
  • You will need to be treated again if your body does not clear the virus on its own.

Prescription Drug Programs in Ontario

  • People who receive social assistance (Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program) or who use Trillium Drug Program (Available for Ontarians who have high drug costs and do not qualify for drug coverage through a different program) may be eligible for prescription drug coverage
  • In Ontario, Peg-interferon, Ribavirin, Victrelis and Incivek are among the drugs that are eligible for coverage under the Exceptional Access Program (EAP)

A request must be submitted for approval before you are eligible for coverage. Your specialist can submit this. Some of the factors that are considered when approving funding for hepatitis C medications include: a positive HCV RNA test, HCV genotype, level of fibrosis, presence of cirrhosis, Child-Pugh score.

  • Registered First Nations and recognized Inuit people may be able to access coverage for their hepatitis C medications through the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program.

For more information on Hepatitis C please call the ACNBA office at 705-497-3560 or visit us at Suite 102- 147 McIntyre St. W, North Bay, ON.