Health – HCV

What is HCV?

HCV stands for Hepatitis C Virus
The virus is usually transmitted by blood to blood contact
HCV is not normally found in other bodily fluids (unless blood is present) and is rarely transmitted through sex

How Is HCV Transmitted?

  • Through contact with infected blood
  • Most commonly through sharing contaminated IV needles
  • Sharing straws, pipes, razors and tattoo/body piercing equipment is considered high risk
  • Estimated 83% of HCV infections occur through substance use It is also possible for a mother to transmit HCV to her newborn (4% chance)
    Although HCV is not easily spread through sex, barriers are recommended because it is still possible

What Happens With HCV?

The virus enters a person’s body through blood on blood contact
The incubation period is 2 to 25 weeks with an average of 7 to 9 weeks
HCV causes inflammation of the liver which can lead to cirrhosis and cancer
Ultimately the liver can shut down and become unable to filter waste

How Does Someone Know if They Have It?

Blood test performed 6-9 weeks post exposure
Follow-up test after 6 months
Testing is recommended if someone has ever injected, snorted or smoked a drug, or been tattooed or pierced
Like HIV, you can’t tell if someone has it by their appearance

What if Someone Has HCV?

It doesn’t necessarily mean they are dying
It is recommended they seek treatment from a doctor with experience in treating HCV
Limit or stop consuming alcohol
Consider vaccination against HAV & HBV to reduce the risk of further damage to the liver
Know and avoid risks for transmission

Risks for Contacting HCV

Sharing substance use equipment (i.e. needles, pipes, straws, spoons, etc.)
Tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture when unsterile equipment is used
Exposure in the workplace by getting pricked by a needle or sharp equipment
Exposure in a medical setting (i.e. doctor’s or dentist’s office) when unsterile equipment is used
Sharing personal care articles such as razors, scissors, nail clippers, or a toothbrush
Unprotected sexual activity that includes contact with blood oBeing born to a mother with HCV (4% chance)

HCV Statistics

An estimated 250,000+ reported cases of HCV in Canada
Approximately 35% of HCV+ people don’t know they have it
Between 3,200 – 5,000 new infections in Canada each year
Unlike HIV, 45% of HCV+ individuals can clear the virus with treatment, and in 15-25% of cases were able to clear the virus without treatment

How to Protect Yourself

Don’t ever share needles, spoons, drug mixes, water, filters, cookers, pipes, straws (for snorting), or other equipment
If you are getting a tattoo, piercing or acupuncture:

  • NEVER allow anyone to use homemade equipment on you or re-use equipment, (including needles, ink or jewelry)
  • Only use fresh, single-use, disposable needles
  • All other equipment must be disinfected and sterilized Cleaning with bleach may not kill HCV

HCV Testing

Sexual Health Clinics:
Oshawa 905-433-8901 or toll free 1-800-314-8533
Pickering 905-420-8781
Port Perry 905-985-4891 or toll free 1-866-1868

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