Skip to main content

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C infection is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Worldwide, about 170 million people have Hep C. In Canada, about 250,000 people are living with Hep C with 110,000 in Ontario. Roughly one in three people don't know they have the virus. There are other kinds of hepatitis caused by viruses, like Hepatitis B (See Hep A, B, & C for more information).

You can get Hep C when blood containing the hepatitis C virus gets in your blood. The highest-risk activity for getting Hep C is using drug preparation and injection equipment—needles, syringes, swabs, filters, spoons and water—that has been used by someone else. (See CATIE's Staying safe for information on how to prevent Hep C.)

The hepatitis C virus attacks your liver. Your body can try to fight the virus—and sometimes it can win—but the hepatitis C virus is very strong. Ordinary medicines like antibiotics do not kill viruses.

Quick Facts on HEP C

  • Hep C is caused by a virus carried in blood. It attacks your liver.
  • The virus is passed by blood-to-blood contact.
  • You might not have symptoms for many years. By that time the liver damage could be serious. During that whole time you could pass the virus on to other people.
  • You can get Hep C from:
    • sharing needles, pipes, straws, cookers, filters, ties, or water for drug use with anyone else, including your sexual partner.
    • piercing or tattooing equipment (including ink) already used on someone else. 
  • Sometimes you can get Hep C from:
    • anything that might have blood on it, like razors, nail clippers and toothbrushes already used by someone else, even if you can’t see the blood.
    • unprotected sex with someone who has Hep C.
  • People can get both Hep C and HIV from blood that has virus in it. Living with Hep C and HIV can present unique challenges.
  • Knowing if you have both Hep C and HIV is the first step in helping you and your healthcare worker make the right choices to keep you healthy.
  • There is treatment for Hep C but first you have to get tested to know if you have the virus.

More information is available at: