It can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months of antiviral therapy to treat and cure hepatitis C.
While current treatments have a high cure rate with few reported side effects, everyone’s experience with hepatitis C is different. Some factors, including symptom severity and the type of job you have, may raise concerns about employment.
Still, hepatitis C itself poses few job restrictions. In other words, your employer can’t legally fire you for having hep C.
There isn’t necessarily an obligation to tell others in your workplace about it, either. The only reason you’d need to is if your job involves any blood-to-blood contact.
Read on to learn more about employment with hepatitis C and what you should do if you experience any restrictions.
Hepatitis C may not cause any noticeable symptoms at first. But as the hepatitis C virus (HCV) leads to more liver inflammation over many years, you may experience the following:
- appetite loss
- bleeding and bruising
- leg swelling
- dark urine
- fluid retention, especially in your abdomen
- excessive fatigue
HCV leading to advanced cirrhosis can also lead to unintentional weight loss, drowsiness, and confusion.
Some of these symptoms could interfere with your ability to work. This is especially true for symptoms that affect your energy and attention levels.
A person contracts HCV when contaminated blood comes into contact with another person’s uncontaminated blood.
Due to the nature of HCV transmission, there are few jobs that are off-limits if you do have hepatitis C.
Some healthcare workers may be more at risk for contracting HCV when working with people with the virus. But doctors and nurses aren’t likely to transmit the virus due to standard precautionary measures that limit blood-to-blood contact in healthcare settings.
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This includes individuals who work with children, food, and other services. The only exception is if the job poses a risk of blood-to-blood contact.
There aren’t many jobs that pose the risk of blood-to-blood transmission. Because of this, you likely won’t need to disclose your condition to your employer.
On the flip side, an employer can’t legally fire you for having hepatitis C. Depending on workplace laws in your state, however, an employer can terminate you if you aren’t able to perform your job.
If you expect that you’ll need to frequently go to your doctor or stay home due to your symptoms, you may want to talk to your human resources (HR) representative.
Depending on your medical needs, you may want to take some time off, whether on a part-time or temporary full-time basis.
At this point, you still don’t have to disclose your condition to your employer or any of your co-workers.
Trying to obtain a new job can be stressful for anyone, but it can feel even more stressful if you’re receiving treatment for hepatitis C.
You still don’t need to disclose your condition when applying or interviewing for a new job.
Depending on the type of job you’re applying for, a potential employer may ask if you have any “physical limitations” that may interfere with your work.
If you feel your hep C symptoms could interfere in some way, you may need to disclose this information. You don’t need to provide specifics about your hepatitis C, though.
Even if you don’t have to disclose your condition at your job, working can still be taxing while you’re receiving treatment.
If you have chronic hepatitis C and your symptoms are severely affecting your ability to work, it may be worth exploring the possibility of disability benefits.
Social Security disability benefits may be an option if you’re no longer able to work.
People with acute hepatitis C don’t usually qualify because their symptoms eventually clear up, allowing them to get back to work quicker.
However, you may consider filing for disability as a precaution in case your condition changes and you need the benefits in the future.
Working while receiving hepatitis C treatment may pose challenges in many ways. Your symptoms may interfere with your work, and you may worry about whether you can keep or obtain a job with your condition.
While your symptoms may affect your work, these effects are usually temporary until you finish treatment.
An employer also can’tlegally discriminate based on any medical condition. Plus, you don’t need to disclose your personal health information to anyone.
To protect yourself and your job, talk to your HR representative about what time off you have, if any. Get doctor’s notes so that any time spent going to medical appointments has written proof.
Above all else, be sure to take care of yourself. Follow your doctor’s treatment plan to help prevent further liver damage and complications.