What is Hepatitis C (HCV)?
The Hepatitis C virus, also known as HCV, mainly infects the liver. It can be a serious disease that causes an ongoing (chronic) infection that can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
The most common symptoms include fatigue, muscle and joint aches or nausea. While there is no vaccine for HCV, there are options for effective treatment.
HCV is spread by blood-to-blood contact:
- We should never share hygiene items like razors, toothbrushes, pierced earrings or IV drug works.
- We should never get tattoos or body piercing with dirty equipment. We must only use new ink pots and needles.
- We should always avoid contact with open wounds or sores, and other people’s blood.
- We should always practice safe sex, and use a condom.
It is estimated that more than 4 million Americans are infected with HCV. In Native American communities, the number of our people who have HCV is estimated to be higher than the general population.
Protect yourself from Hepatitis C (HCV)
We should never share needles or any other drug equipment – doing so is one of the easiest ways to get or pass on Hepatitis C (HCV). This includes sharing cottons, cookers, ties, pipes, straws and water – all of these things can put us at risk, and it only takes once!
HCV is spread by blood-to-blood contact. The amount of blood that will transmit HCV is so tiny that you might not even be able to see it.
Most people who shoot drugs have very high infection rates, sometimes as high as 90%.
We should resolve to never share any drug-using equipment. This will help prevent HCV from spreading to you, your family and community.
The disease may grow in your liver, but not show with active symptoms for many years. You might not even know you have it, unless you get screened. Contact Wabanaki Health and Wellness to learn more about getting tested.
Source: © 2012 Hepatitis C Support Project, HCV Advocate, which was developed in partnership with California Consortium For Urban Indian Health; Native American Health Centers of Oakland and San Francisco; Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Program; and Native JourneyWoman.