Hepatitis C is a liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before 1992, when widespread screening of the blood supply began in the United States, Hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.” Acute Hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease than can result in long-term health problems, or even death.
Currently, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. The best way to prevent Hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, like injection drug use, unprotected sex, and the sharing of items contaminated with blood.
To be tested for Hepatitis C, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. Testing is covered under most health insurance plans, including Medi-Cal and Medicare. If you do not have health insurance, low-cost testing is available at Butte County Public Health Clinics. To make an appointment for testing, call (530) 879-3665 in Chico, or (530) 538-7341 in Oroville. If you have additional questions and would like to speak to a Public Health staff person during regular business hours, call our Public Health office in Oroville at 530-538-2840.