|Causative organism||Hepatitis C virus|
|Incubation period||Up to 14–182 days (mean 14–84 days)|
|How far back to trace||6 months prior to onset of acute symptoms; if asymptomatic according to risk history|
|Usual testing method||Hepatitis C antibody (anti-HCV) is the screening test. If positive, a hepatitis C RNA (PCR) test is used to confirm active infection through detection of circulating viral RNA|
Most people experience no symptoms
Some people may have acute hepatitis with nausea, dark urine, jaundice, abdominal discomfort, fatigue
|Likelihood of transmission||
The likelihood of transmission via sex is generally low.
Sexual transmission has been recorded between cis men and cis women living with HIV as well as transgender women but is believed to be rare.
However, sexual transmission between GBMSM (cis and trans) living with HIV is relatively common and has also been reported between GBMSM (cis and trans) not living with HIV
|Likelihood of long-term sexual partner being infected||<5% (if no other risk factors)|
|Protective effect of condoms||Likely|
|Transmission by oral sex||Rare|
|Duration of potential infectivity||
25% of people with acute hepatitis C infection will clear the virus spontaneously within 6 to 12 months.
Those with chronic infection who are untreated will remain infectious until treated.
|Important sequelae||Severe hepatitis, chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer|
|Direct benefit of detection and treatment of contacts||
|Usual management of contacts||
Counselling and testing (antibodies may take up to 6 months to develop)
|Contact tracing priority||
High for needle-sharing contacts, current blood donors (12 months prior to testing HCV Ab+) and blood donor recipients before 1990.
High for children born to an infected mother (5% risk of transmission.
Low for sexual contacts but higher for GBMSM living with HIV.
Low if RNA test negative
Acute viral hepatitis C is notifiable by all doctors in all Australian states and territories, and New Zealand.
ASHM National Hepatitis C Testing Policy, accessed at: http://testingportal.ashm.org.au/national-hcv-testing-policy/
Hepatitis NSW, Hep C Factsheet: Sex and transmission, [Internet] accessed at: https://www.hep.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Factsheet-Hep-C-sex.pdf
Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Fifth National Hepatitis C Strategy 2018-2022.
Iversen J, Dore GJ, Catlett B, Cunningham P, Grebely J, Maher L. Association between rapid utilisation of direct hepatitis C antivirals and decline in the prevalence of viremia among people who inject drugs in Australia. J Hepatol 2019;70:33-9 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhep.2018.09.030
Page last updated September 2022