Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that causes inflammation of the liver, and can result in liver damage and liver cancer.

There are more than 50,000 people in New Zealand with the hepatitis C virus, although it is estimated only half are currently diagnosed.

People with the virus can remain asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) for decades.

If you are concerned about hepatitis C call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see your doctor or practice nurse.

Hepatitis C is spread mainly through contact with the blood of an infected person.

In New Zealand, the infection is mostly spread through sharing injecting drug-use equipment (eg, needles, syringes, filters). For more information, visit the Needle Exchange Programme.

Hepatitis C can also be passed on through:

  • a tattoo or body piercing using unsterile equipment
  • a blood transfusion (if it took place before 1992)
  • living in or receiving medical treatment in a high-risk country
  • being born to a mother living with hepatitis C

If you have hepatitis C, you may have:

  • unusual tiredness or fatigue
  • joint pain
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain

Many people with hepatitis C have no symptoms. A blood test will confirm whether or not you have hepatitis C. You can talk to your GP about having a test if you have symptoms.


If you think you might have hepatitis C, you should contact your doctor to see if you need a blood test. You can also call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116.

If diagnosed early, a person with hepatitis C is able to make lifestyle changes that may help delay the onset of serious complications, undertake treatment to cure the disease, and take steps to ensure that they do not transmit it to someone else. New direct-acting antiviral drug therapies are a major advancement in the treatment of hepatitis C, with cure rates of more than 90% with 12 weeks treatment. 

If left unchecked, 20–25% of infected individuals will develop cirrhosis of the liver, 3–5% of whom will develop liver cancer each year. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplantation in New Zealand.  

Hepatitis C is a notifiable disease. This means that health professionals or laboratories will inform us when someone has it. This allows us to give advice about how to stop it spreading, and check that other people who have been in close contact with the person with the illness haven’t also been infected.


There are specific requirements for notifiable diseases in the Auckland region.

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Last updated 13.12.2022

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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