You are correct you have to come in contact with someone who has it. There are several types of hepatitis and unlike some other conditions (such as high blood pressure or diabetes, for example) none of them –including hepatitis C – are infections you get because a family history makes you more susceptible. Because hepatitis C virus is a virus it can be transmitted through exposure to infected blood. For example, when injecting drug users share needles or syringes. The virus can be transmitted mother-to-child if a pregnant woman is infected. Rarely, hepatitis C is transmitted through sexual contact (hepatitis B is much more likely to be acquired sexually). It’s also possible to contract hepatitis C thorough blood or organ transplants, although this is rare in the U.S. since updated precautions went into place in the early 1990s.
Most individuals with hepatitis C (about 80%) do not have signs or symptoms. Hepatitis targets the liver. Liver disease progresses so slowly that a person can have hepatitis C for years without having symptoms. Many individuals with chronic hepatitis C have mild to moderate liver damage but do not feel sick. The possible symptoms for an acute infection (newly acquired or short-term) and a chronic (long-term or persistent) infection are different.
Unlike hepatitis B, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Treatment may differ depending on the stage of illness at the time treatment is sought. Your healthcare provider can help you make the best decisions about your treatment based upon your individual health needs. People with acute viral hepatitis experience a self-limited illness (one that runs a defined, short course) and go on to recover completely. Relatively few people seek medical care for acute HCV, since most individuals are have no symptoms or have only mild, flu-like symptoms. Contact your healthcare provider for more information.
–Versie Johnson-Mallard, PhD, RN, APRN, WHNP-BC