Hepatitis C virus can cause liver disease. Most people who get infected with hepatitis C virus will have it the rest of their life, this is called a chronic infection. Hepatitis C virus is found in the blood of infected people, who can spread it to others.
You can be infected with the hepatitis C virus if you
Share needles, syringes, or drug preparation equipment with an infected person
Share personal care items such as razors, toothbrushes, or medical equipment, such as a glucose monitor, with an infected person
Get a tattoo, body piercing, or acupuncture with unsterile equipment
Get cut with a sharp instrument or a needlestick injury in a health care setting
Have sex with an infected partner
Accidentally get stuck by a contaminated needle
Many people infected with hepatitis C virus have no symptoms. Those with symptoms may have fever, fatigue, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, and yellow color in the skin or eyes (jaundice).
An infected person with or without symptoms may develop long-term complications of chronic infection that can result in serious liver damage, such as cirrhosis (scarring), liver failure, or liver cancer.
Although the risk to most travelers is low, your chances of infection increase if you get a transfusion of unscreened blood, have medical or dental procedures abroad, get tattoos or piercings or receive acupuncture with unsterile needles, or have sex with a person infected with hepatitis C.
What can travelers do to prevent hepatitis C infection?
There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. Although there are treatments for chronic hepatitis, it is better to prevent infection by taking the following steps:
Don’t inject drugs
Make sure tattoo, piercing, and acupuncture equipment has been sterilized
Don’t share toothbrushes or devices that can break the skin, including needles for tattoos, piercings, and acupuncture
Make sure medical and dental equipment has been sterilized
Use latex condoms correctly when having sex, especially with new partners
If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel.
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