How Can I Prevent Getting Hepatitis C?
Last updated: November 2019
The term 'hepatitis' means inflammation or infection of the liver. Hepatitis can be triggered by chemicals, drugs, or viruses. Liver damage can also be a result of heavy alcohol use, toxins, and certain medical conditions. Hepatitis C is a virus infection which causes inflammation and damage to the liver.
How is hepatitis C transmitted?
Hepatitis C is transmitted (or spread) from infectious blood and fluids. When a person first develops hepatitis C, this is called an “acute” infection, which means the infection is less than 6 months.
According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 15%-25% of people clear the virus without treatment. However, 75%-85% of people infected with hepatitis C develop a chronic or long-term infection. Over time, chronic hepatitis C can lead to liver damage, causing severe scarring (known as cirrhosis), liver cancer, or liver failure.
What is the impact of hepatitis C?
Close to 4 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C. Across the globe, approximately 175 million have hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is known as the “silent disease” due to symptoms do not often appear for a long time and can often mask other conditions. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of chronic liver disease - and liver transplants - in the United States.
There are vaccine’s for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, but NOT for hepatitis C. The virus mutates and changes in the body so quickly, making it hard to develop a vaccine. It is possible to be infected with more than one type of hepatitis C at the same time. Being vaccinated for hepatitis A & B helps prevent infection of these two types.
Steps to prevent getting hepatitis C
- Do not share personal hygiene items like razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, or other personal items.
- Wear latex gloves when helping someone dress an open wound.
- Do not share needles.
- Do not do drugs. Drug use (through many methods) increases the high risk for hepatitis C.
- Practice safe sex.
- Use caution when having tattoos or body piercing. Do not use reused needles or equipment.
- Cover all cuts, wounds, or sores with a clean sterile bandage immediately.
- Clean all blood spills on surfaces thoroughly. The Center for Disease Control recommends cleaning blood spills, including dried blood, which can still be infectious, with a dilution of one-part household bleach to 10 parts water. Gloves should be worn when cleaning surfaces.
- If you received a needle stick, or come in contact with blood, tell your doctor and ask to be tested for hepatitis C.
Testing & treatment
A blood test determines if you have hepatitis C. Don’t assume your doctor or hospital has tested you for hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is not a part of routine blood work from most primarily physicians. You need to ask to be tested.
There are a variety of highly effective treatments for hepatitis C for all genotypes (virus strains), and liver conditions. Early detection with testing and treatment is the best way to prevent severe liver damage.1,2