Hepatitis C Transmission Risk Factors and Prevention
Hepatitis C can be contracted in many ways. A proactive step is to get tested for hepatitis C, regardless of if you have any risk factors. Learn the risk factors and ways to prevent hepatitis C transmission. The steps can help save your liver and your life.
Hepatitis C transmission risk factors
Hepatitis C is a virus in the blood which can be transmitted when infected blood has internal contact with blood of someone who is not infected.
The American Liver Foundation states these are the highest risk factors for HCV:1
- Anyone born between 1945 and 1965
- If you received donated blood, blood products, or had an organ transplant before July 1992
- If you were given a blood clotting factor before 1987
- Hemodialysis patients
- Having a needle-stick injury or had a procedure with unsterilized equipment that was contaminated with hepatitis C blood either in a hospital or healthcare facility/environment.
- If one time you shared reused needles, or injected or inhaled drugs.
- If you were ever incarcerated or worked in a prison facility.
- Shared hygiene items with someone who has HCV like toothbrushes, razors, or nail clippers.
- If your mother was infected with hepatitis C when you were born.
- Tattoos or body piercing with reused unsterile tools.
- Having sex with multiple partners or with anyone who is infected with a sexual transmitted disease, or even with rough sex.
Even if you don’t have risk factors, you can still contract hepatitis C.
Reducing transmission risks
Here are some ways to reduce your risk of hep C transmission:
- Do not share personal items with others like razors, toothbrushes, or nail clippers
- Wear latex gloves when you are helping someone dress an open wound.
- Use recommended safety measures if you are exposed to blood or needle sticks.
- Do not share needles.
- Practice safe sex.
- Use clean needles and equipment for tattoos or body piercings.
- Cover a cut, wound or sore with a clean sterile bandage immediately. It’s a good idea to keep Band-Aids in your wallet or purse in case you get cut away from home.
For cleaning HCV blood spills, the CDC warns that all blood, even dried, is still in danger of being infectious with HCV. Cleaning all blood spills should be carefully done by wearing protective gloves, using a solution of one-part household bleach to nine-parts of water.2 The hep C virus can survive outside the body at room temperature, on environmental surfaces, for up to 3 weeks.
Prior to the early ’90s, blood in the United States was not screened for hepatitis C for blood transfusions. Many people may never know how they contracted hepatitis C. The important thing to remember is move forward with taking care of yourself, seek treatment, and get the cure. Your life is worth it.
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