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Hepatitis A, B and C

Hepatitis is a viral infection that affects the liver.

How do you get it?

Hepatitis A

You can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water and by not washing hands after the toilet or before touching food.

Hepatitis A can be spread through unprotected sex (no condom) which involves oral to anal contact (rimming).

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is spread:

  • by having unprotected (without a condom) vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who is infected
  • from mother to baby
  • sharing items that may pierce the skin or have blood on them (needles, syringes, unsterilised instruments, razors, toothbrushes)
  • blood transfusion (in countries that do not pre-test blood for transfusion).

Hepatitis C

You can get hepatitis C through contact with infected blood, sharing needles, syringes and any other equipment and, possibly, through sexual contact. You can also get it with a blood transfusion in countries that do not pre-test blood for transfusion.

What are the symptoms of these infections?

Although there are often no symptoms, they can include:

  • yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
  • dark urine
  • mild flu-like symptoms
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea.

How is it treated?

To recover, you should eat a well-balanced, low fat diet, and make sure you rest and get some exercise. It is best to avoid alcohol and drugs, as well as sexual contact, until you are better. If you are using any other medicines, check with your doctor that they don’t affect your liver.

There are vaccines available for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. These stop you getting the infection if the first place.

There are now some antiviral treatments for hepatitis C, so talk to your doctor about these.

Will it affect my partner/s?

If you have hepatitis A: Your partner/s should be immunised for prevention. You should avoid anal sex until you are better.

If you have hepatitis B: Free immunisation is available for household and sexual contacts of people known to carry hepatitis B. If your partner is not immunised, you should always use a condom. Protection is offered to babies on the immunisation schedule and to children under 16 years.

If you have hepatitis C: Anyone you’ve had sex with, or shared a needle with can have a blood test to check for hepatitis C antibodies.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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