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Division of Disease Control

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Hepatitis C

Over four million people in the U.S. are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Most don't know it.

Testing is the only way to find out if you have hepatitis C. If you are infected, treatment is available.

Ask your doctor during your next visit for a HCV test.

What is Hepatitis C?
  • Hepatitis C is a virus that affects the liver.
  • Hepatitis C is spread by blood-to-blood contact. It cannot be spread by touch, kissing, sharing meals, coughing
    or sneezing.
  • Hepatitis C also can be called: hep C, or HCV.
  • There are different kinds of hep C virus, call genotypes. Each has a different treatment options.
  • Hep C infection is the number one reason for liver transplants for adults in the US.
  • Have you been diagnosed with Hep C? Read our new resource, Hepatitis C: A Roadmap for the Newly Diagnosed

What does Hepatitis C do?
  • In most cases (85%), HCV does not immediately cause symptoms.
  • In the other 15% of cases, symptoms occur two weeks to six months after getting it. Acute hepatitis is usually mild and can include: jaundice (yellowing of the eyes, tongue or skin), stomach or joint pain, dark urine, tiredness, itchiness, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting.
  • People who get symptoms usually feel better without medicine, but the HCV can remain in the blood.
  • Folks who have HCV can give it to other people by blood-to-blood contact, even if they don't have symptoms
  • Most people (80%) who are infected with HCV will develop a chronic hepatitis C infection that can lead to liver disease, cirrhosis or cancer.


How can I find out if I have Hepatitis C?

There is a test to find out if you have hep C. There are a number of reasons to get tested for hep C.

  • If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you should get tested. If you have any symptoms of hep C (jaundice, dark urine, stomach or joint pain, etc.), you should get tested.
  • Hep C testing (blood work) is not part of the routine physical exam. If you believe you may have been exposed to the virus, you should ask your medical provider to be tested.
  • If you have a history of injection drug use, tattoos or body piercing from an unlicensed parlor), dialysis, multiple sexual partners, having received blood products before 1992 or clotting factors before 1987, you should get tested.

Persons identified as having HCV infection should receive a brief screening for alcohol use and intervention as clinically indicated, followed by referral to appropriate care for HCV infection and related conditions.

Learn more about CDC's HCV screening recommendations.

How can I keep from getting Hepatitis C?

You can lower your chances of getting hep C by:

  • Not sharing injection drug equipment, if you cannot abstain from use
  • Only getting tattoos/piercings at a commercial parlor
  • Using condoms and practicing safe sex, every time
  • Not sharing personal items, such as razors, toothbrushes, blood glucose monitoring equipment

Newly Diagnosed?

For the approximately 4,000 Philadelphian who are diagnosed with Hep C every year, we have developed this educational guide: Hepatitis C: A Roadmap for the Newly Diagnosed

If you would like a print copy mailed to you (only one per person, please), we will review our ability to accommodate requests outside of Philadelphia on a case by case basis. Please email your request to



PDPH's Viral Hepatitis Prevention Program
To learn more about hepatitis screening, treatment and management:

PDPH's Hepatitis C Surveillance Program
For providers and labs, to report a case of Hepatitis C: