Could You Have Caught Hepatitis C on Holiday and Not Realised?

Not many realise that there are several ways that you could catch hepatitis C on your travels. In fact, it’s predicted that there are around 62,000 people in England that have the virus without even realising.

So, here’s what hepatitis C is, how to avoid it and the super easy way to make sure you don’t have it yourself.

Chelsea with at home hepatitis C test
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What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that is spread through the blood and affects the liver. It can exist in the body without symptoms for decades, but if left untreated, it can cause serious damage and life-threatening damage to the liver over many years.

Who can catch hepatitis C?

Absolutely anyone can acquire hepatitis C and experts estimate that there are around 62,000 people in England that have the infection without knowing about it, with thousands unknowingly picking up hepatitis C when abroad.

How can you catch hepatitis C when travelling?

The hepatitis C virus is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact meaning there are a lot of ways that you could catch the infection whilst travelling, including:

  • Having a planned or emergency medical procedure abroad, including cosmetic procedures
  • Getting a tattoo or piercing in an unsterile environment
  • Sharing toothbrushes, nail clippers or nail files, or razors
  • Using recreational drugs like cocaine – especially with a shared bank note or straw
  • Using injected drugs like heroin

Whilst more rare, there’s also a chance you could catch hepatitis C through unprotected sex as well.

Arm getting tattoo

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

What makes hepatitis C so hard to pin down is that it’s normal to not have any noticeable symptoms until the liver has been significantly damaged. That’s why if you’ve ever experienced any of the activities above – even years ago – it’s worth getting tested to just be sure.

If you have had hepatitis C for many years, your symptoms can include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches and high temperature
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach ache
  • Feeling and being sick

How do you get tested for hepatitis C?

The good news is that a simple blood test will determine whether you have hepatitis C and even better is that if you’re over 18 and live in England, you can get a home test sent straight to your door for free.

The test arrives in very discreet packaging, and inside has everything you need to collect a blood sample from home.

Hepatitis C test contents

Where do I order my free hepatitis C test from?

As long as you are over 18 and live in England, you can order your free hepatitis C test in moments using this NHS website.

You’ll need to provide your date of birth, your address and a contact telephone number.

It took me around 30 seconds to order.

What do I do if I live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland?

Speak to your GP who will be able to advise you on the next steps to take.

My experience doing an at home hepatitis C test

After ordering my hepatitis C test online, I was advised that my test would arrive within the next 5 days. However, the package arrived just 2 days later – it was super quick!

The test came in a very plain grey package and inside was a cardboard box full of equipment and instructions to help me take a blood sample. The overall aim is to collect enough blood to be sent back to the lab for them to test it for you.

Hepatitus c packagesss

Before the test, I ran my hands under hot water as that makes collecting the blood a bit easier but a top tip is to do this after a shower, since your whole body will be a lot warmer!

Another tip is to not aim for the tip of your finger, but a bit lower down on the pad of your finger – and the ring or middle fingers tend to be a bit easier to get blood out of.

After using the lancet to create a small scratch (it stings a little, but it doesn’t hurt), I was able to get the needed 400ul (0.4ml) of blood into the collection tube. You do this by an action that is similar to ‘milking’ – yes, that’s right, you have to milk yourself!

Chelsea with a hepatitis C test

It took me around 3 minutes to do this, but don’t worry if it takes you a little longer.

Once finished, I secured the lid and put it inside the transport bag and then sealed it. Then, making sure I’d filled in the form and included it, I sealed my test inside the cardboard box and sealed that too. All that was left was to post it!

Now that I’ve posted the sample, the NHS will contact me with my test result within 2 weeks. If negative, this is likely to be a text but if positive, an NHS healthcare professional will call to discuss the result.

How do you treat hepatitis C?

If you do test positive, don’t worry! It’s very easy to treat hepatitis C. In the recent past, you would have been offered a weekly injection and tablet; however, these days, you simply have to take a course of tablets.

These new hepatitis C medicines have been found to make treatment more effective, easier to tolerate and have a shorter treatment time.

Using these, more than 97% of people with hepatitis C may be cured however it does not mean you will be immune to the infection in the future.

What can happen if hepatitis C remains untreated?

If left untreated for many years, some people with hepatitis C will develop scarring of the liver which can cause the liver to stop working properly over time.

This does unfortunately mean that in severe cases, life-threatening problems such as liver failure or liver cancer can eventually develop.

That’s why it’s so important to start treating hepatitis C as early as possible.

Need more advice?

Head to the NHS page on hepatitis C for further advice, and speak to your GP if you have any additional questions. Alternatively you can call the Hepatitis C Trust Helpline on 020 7089 6221 (weekdays, 10:30-16:30).

Have I helped? Want to say thanks?

That’s nice of you! There are free ways you can return the favour by following me on Instagram and YouTube.

If you’re feeling generous, you can buy me a ‘coffee’ using Ko-Fi. Or you can also join my Patreon for extra travel perks including my personal hotel upgrade templates, behind the scenes access and even a secret Instagram group.

Test for Hepatitis C at home

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