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Hepatitis C

Over four million people in the United States are infected with hepatitis C virus. 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 touching, kissing, sharing meals, coughing or sneezing.
  • Hepatitis C can also be called hep C or HCV.
  • There are different kinds of hepatitis C virus, called genotypes. The type of the virus you have may affect the type of treatment you need.
  • Hepatitis C infection is the number one reason for liver transplants for adults in the US.

For more general information about hepatitis C, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the National Institute of Health.

For testing and treatment resources in Philadelphia, visit Philly Hepatitis.

What does hepatitis C do?

  • In most cases (85 percent), hepatitis C does not immediately cause symptoms.
  • In the other 15 percent 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 hepatitis C virus can remain in the blood.
  • People who have hepatitis C 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 hepatitis C will develop a chronic hepatitis C infection that can lead to liver disease, cirrhosis or cancer.

Learn more at Philly Hepatitis.

How can I find out if I have hepatitis C?

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

  • If you were born between 1945 and 1965.
  • If you have any symptoms of hepatitis C (jaundice, dark urine, stomach or joint pain, etc.).
  • 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.
  • Hepatitis 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.

Learn more about CDC screening recommendations for hepatitis C.

Use our online map tool to find a testing site near you.

How can I lower my chances of getting hepatitis C?

You can lower your chances of getting hepatitis 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?

Visit Philly Hepatitis for information, support, and care tools. You can also find out how to get involved in the viral hepatitis community.

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

* Treatment is constantly changing and is much shorter now than detailed in this resource. Talk to your doctor about making your own treatment plan.


Contact Us

The public can call 215-685-6462 to learn more about hepatitis screening, treatment, and management.

Health care providers and laboratories can call 215-685-6493 to report a case of hepatitis C.