Health Topics

Hepatitis

Hepatitis pronounced (hep-ah-TY-tiss) means inflammation of the liver. The liver can become inflamed or damaged by alcohol, toxins, foods, medicines or by viruses like hepatitis A, hepatitis B or hepatitis C

Most people who have hepatitis do not feel sick, until their liver gets very damaged or scarred (cirrhosis). Liver cirrhosis can make the liver stop working, this is called liver failure.

Hepatitis A, B and C can cause serious liver damage, including liver cancer. To learn more about viral hepatitis click on the headings below.

Every hour, at least 1 person is infected with hepatitis C in Canada.
Don’t wait. Get tested - It may save your life.

 

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C is very common, and most people do not know they have the virus. You can have hepatitis C for a short time (acute) or for a long time (chronic). Chronic hepatitis C can lead to serious liver damage, including liver cancer.  

How do you get hepatitis C?

You can get hepatitis C from direct blood to blood contact with someone who has the virus.

You may have hepatitis C if you:

  • Shared needles or supplies for using street drugs (even once)
  • Had tattoos, piercings, manicures, pedicures or medical procedures that were done with poorly cleaned equipment
  • Shared personal care items (tooth brushes, nail clippers, razors, etc.)
  • Had sex without a condom with a partner infected with hepatitis C
  • Were born to a person who had hepatitis C
  • Had a blood transfusion in Canada before 1992
  • Were born in, travelled to, or lived in a region where hepatitis C infection is common, such as:
    • East Asia and Pacific
    • Eastern Europe and Central Asia
    • Latin America and the Caribbean
    • North Africa and the Middle East
    • Sub-Saharan Africa

The hepatitis C virus can live outside the body for four days on objects like needles, razors, syringes, or nail clippers.

How do you prevent hepatitis C?

There is no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C, and you can get hepatitis C more than once or have more than 1 type of hepatitis C infection.

You can reduce your risk of getting or spreading hepatitis C by:

  • Not sharing personal care items (razors, scissors, toothbrushes or nail clippers)
  • Never sharing needles or other supplies for using street drugs (cookers, pipes etc..)
  • Wearing latex gloves when you may come in contact with someone else’s blood
  • Getting tattoos or piercings at licensed establishments. If you are unsure if a location is licenced, ask to see their last inspection results. Inspection results are also posted online
  • Practicing safer sex
  • Covering open sores or breaks in your skin

If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis C it is important that you protect your liver from other viral hepatitis infections. People who have viral hepatitis can get FREE vaccines for some other types of hepatitis such as hepatitis A or B and vaccines to prevent other diseases like pneumonia. If you have a hepatitis infection talk to your doctor about what vaccines are right for you.

Get tested! It is the only way to know if you have hepatitis C.

Most people with Hepatitis C have no symptoms. If you do get sick with hepatitis C you may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • A fever
  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Feel tired
  • Not be hungry
  • An upset stomach

Even if you don’t feel sick, you can still have the virus and spread it to others.

Where can I get tested for hepatitis C in Hamilton?

If you think you could have come in contact with hepatitis C, get tested. Getting tested early means you can start treatment sooner and stop the damage to your liver.

Ask to be tested for hepatitis C at:

Where can I get treatment for hepatitis C in Hamilton?

Hepatitis C is considered a curable infection. You can get treatment for hepatitis C from a specialist or a clinic that specializes in hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis C can be cured in 90% of people with medicine prescribed by a doctor. This means the virus won’t continue to damage your liver. Treatment can be as short as 8-12 weeks.

Did you know that most medicine for chronic hepatitis C in Ontario is FREE if you qualify for the Ontario Drug Benefit program? Funding may also be available through your own private insurance or directly from the drug companies. Your hepatitis treatment team will help you with getting the right medicine to treat your infection.

To talk about treatment:

  • Call your doctor or nurse who can refer you to a specialist.
  • Visit Liver Care Canada, the Shelter Health Hep C Team, or call Hamilton Public Health at 905-546-2063 for help connecting to hepatitis C treatment.

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. You can have Hepatitis B for a short time (acute) or for a long time (chronic). Chronic hepatitis B can lead to serious liver damage, including liver cancer. 

There is a vaccine to protect you against hepatitis B.

How do you get hepatitis B?

You can get hepatitis B from contact with blood, semen, or vaginal fluid of someone who has the virus.

You may have hepatitis B if you:

  • Were born to a person who has hepatitis B
  • Lived in or were born in a region where hepatitis B is common  
  • Had sex without a condom
  • Shared sex toys
  • Shared needles and supplies for using street drugs (even once)
  • Had tattoos, piercings, manicures, pedicures or medical procedures that were done with poorly cleaned equipment
  • Shared personal care items (tooth brushes, nail clippers, razors, etc.).
  • Had a blood transfusion in Canada before 1970.

The hepatitis B virus can live for seven days on objects like needles, razors, syringes, or sex toys.

Many people who become infected with hepatitis B do not feel sick or have symptoms. If you do get sick with hepatitis B, you may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Joint pain
  • Feel tired
  • Not feel hungry 

Even if you don’t feel sick, you can still have the virus and spread it to others.

How do you prevent hepatitis B?

There is a vaccine for hepatitis B. To learn more about vaccination see the ‘where can I get a hepatitis B in Hamilton?’ section below.

You can reduce your risk of getting or spreading hepatitis B by:

  • Getting a hepatitis B vaccine
  • Not sharing personal care items (razors, scissors, toothbrushes or nail clippers)
  • Never sharing needles or other supplies for using street drugs (cookers, pipes etc..)
  • Wearing latex gloves when you may come in contact with someone else’s blood
  • Getting tattoos or piercings at licensed establishment. If you are unsure if a location is licenced, ask to see their last inspection results. Inspection results are also posted online
  • Practicing safer sex
  • Covering open sores or breaks in your skin

Where can I get a hepatitis B vaccine in Hamilton?

The hepatitis B vaccine is FREE for people at high risk of getting hepatitis B and for school-aged children in grades 7 and 8.

You can be vaccinated against hepatitis B for FREE if you:

  • Have multiple sex partners
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Use intravenous drugs
  • Have chronic liver disease, including hepatitis C
  • Have a history of a sexually transmitted disease
  • Are a household or sexual contact of someone who has hepatitis B
  • Are on renal dialysis or have a disease needing blood products       
  • Had a needle stick injury in a non-health care setting
  • Are waiting for a liver transplant
  • Are a child under 7 years old whose family has come from a country where there is a high risk of hepatitis B
  • Are an infant born to a hepatitis B positive person

Hepatitis A and B are common in many countries. If you are travelling, talk to your doctor about the hepatitis A and B vaccines.  

If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis B, it is important that you protect your liver from other viral hepatitis infections. People who have viral hepatitis can get FREE vaccines to prevent other diseases like pneumonia or hepatitis A. If you have a hepatitis infection talk to your doctor about what vaccines are right for you.

Ask about getting vaccinated by calling or visiting:

Where can I get tested for hepatitis B in Hamilton?

If you think you might have hepatitis B, get tested. It is important to get tested if you were born in, travelled to, or lived in a region that has many hepatitis B infections and do not have a hepatitis B vaccine. Regions that have high numbers of Hepatitis B include:

  • Southern and Eastern Europe
  • South and Central America
  • Africa and the Middle East
  • Asia

Ask to be tested for hepatitis B at:

Where can I get treatment for hepatitis B in Hamilton?

Medicine is available for people who have chronic hepatitis B. Not every person with hepatitis B needs medicine. Medicines to treat hepatitis B cannot cure you, but they can help stop damage to your liver.

If you are at risk for hepatitis B, your doctor may test you for other infections like hepatitis C.

To talk about treatment:

  • Call your doctor or nurse who can refer you to a specialist.
  • Visit Liver Care Canada, or call Hamilton Public Health at 905-546-2063

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A is often spread when someone eats food or drinks water that contains the hepatitis A virus. The food or water becomes contaminated when it comes in contact with the feces from an infected person. This can happen when:

  • A person with hepatitis A does not wash their hands properly after using the bathroom 
  • Drinking water is contaminated with sewage
  • Untreated water is used on crops

Hepatitis A is found in the blood and stool of someone who is infected. It can be spread from person to person by sexual contact, contact with feces, blood transfusions or sharing needles.

There is a vaccine to protect you against hepatitis A.

Most people who get hepatitis A get better on their own and do not have long-term liver damage. But, people with chronic sicknesses like hepatitis C, hepatitis B, or HIV are at risk of getting very sick from hepatitis A. 

How do you get hepatitis A

 

You are at risk of getting hepatitis A if you:

  • Eat or drink unsafe food or water
  • Travel internationally to high risk areas.
  • Have a sexual partner who has hepatitis A
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Share supplies for using street drugs

Many people who become infected with hepatitis A do not feel sick or have symptoms. If you do get sick with hepatitis A, you may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Upset stomach
  • Dark urine or light-coloured stools
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Feel tired
  • Not feel hungry 

Even if you don’t feel sick, you can still have the virus and spread it to others.

How do you prevent hepatitis A?

There is a vaccine for hepatitis A. To learn more about vaccination see the ‘where can I get a hepatitis A vaccine in Hamilton?’ section below.

You can reduce your risk of getting or spreading hepatitis A by:

  • Getting a hepatitis A vaccine
  • Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand rub with 60-90% alcohol before preparing or eating food and after using the washroom and changing diapers. Please note that 70% alcohol-based hand rub is needed to kill norovirus.
  • Not preparing food and beverages for others if you are sick
  • Following these tips when travelling to countries where hepatitis A is present
    • Ask for no ice cubes in your drink
    • Peel your own raw fruit and vegetables
    • Drink water from a safe supply (bottled, boiled, etc.)
    • Only eat foods that are well-cooked
  • Practicing safer sex
  • Never sharing needles or other supplies for using street drugs (cookers, pipes etc..)

Where can I get a hepatitis A vaccine in Hamilton?

You can get the hepatitis A vaccine for FREE in Ontario if you:

  • Use injection drugs
  • Have a chronic liver disease (hepatitis B or hepatitis C)
  • Are a man who has sex with men

Hepatitis A and B are common in many countries. If you are travelling, talk to your doctor about the hepatitis A and B vaccines.  

Ask about getting vaccinated by calling or visiting: