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How Can I Prevent Getting Hepatitis C?

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.

Vaccines

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

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The HepatitisC.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Center of Disease Control: Liang TJ, Rehermann B, Seeff LB, Hoofnagle JH. Pathogenesis, natural history, treatment, and prevention of hepatitis C. Ann Intern Med. 2000;132(4):296-305.
  2. Thomas DL, Seeff LB. Natural history of hepatitis C. Clin Liver Dis. 2005;9(3):383-98.

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