How Hepatitis C is Spread
Last updated: September 2020
At first, I didn’t know how hep C was spread. After finding out that I had hep C, my doctors asked a lot questions. Then we moved on to begin treatment. Here is a list of ways that hep C is spread.
First, compared to other viruses, you don't catch hep C easily; Unlike other viruses, hep C is not in the air. You can’t get it from casual contact. There has to be a blood to blood transmission. It will not spread unless an infected person mingles their blood with another person. It’s blood-borne.
The most common way that hep C can spread
The most common way that hep C can spread from person to person is by sharing needles. For people who use injection drug users, using a new needle each time and then properly disposing of that needle can reduce the risk of contracting and spreading hepatitis C. When preparing to inject drugs, be sure that the equipment is not shared. There is no way to clean a drug injection kit that will guarantee the removal of the hepatitis C virus.
Less common ways
Some less common ways that hepatitis C can spread include...
- During childbirth: In rare cases, a mother who has hep C may transmit the virus to her unborn child.
- Blood transfusion: With increased blood bank testing, the risk is extremely low
- Dental procedures: Increased monitoring has reduced dental office transmission by using stringent cleaning procedures, and also universal precautions
- Medical procedures: In most developed countries, there is little risk of getting hep C in a medical environment.
- Needle stick injuries: If a health care provider accidentally sticks themselves when caring for a person who has hep C, then the virus can be spread. The provider should be tested for HCV.
- Organ transplant: If a person has hepatitis C and donates their organs upon death, the recipient will be tested. For example, if I had received a hep C-positive liver, they would test me for the antibodies. If I got it, and my body did not fight off hep C, hopefully, I would quickly become eligible to take treatment and be cured.
- Sharing personal items: If a person has hep C, a glucose monitor, razor, nail clippers, or even a toothbrush should not be shared. No on in my family got hep C through a shared razor. Once I was diagnosed, however, I kept my personal items separate.
- During sex: There is a low a risk of hep C being spread through sex. Some people may be at a higher risk of spreading hep C through sex, such as people with multiple sexual partners, men who have sex with men, those who engage in rough sex, and persons with HIV. precautions should be taken.
- Unsafe piercing or tattoos: Most licensed facilities take precautions to protect people from the risk of any infection, including hep C. Home piercing, or tattooing in an informal setting, may put a person at risk for hep C infection.
With modern medical tests, anyone can know if they have hep C. Then, they can take steps to reduce the risk of transmission by telling friends, family, dentists, medical providers, and others if they have hepatitis C.
Once you've got hep C, however, you can begin to focus on getting treated and cured. Then you can take steps to be sure that you are never exposed to hep C again.