How to Avoid Getting and Transmitting Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is not an easy virus to get or transmit, as long as you follow some simple practices. This virus is caught through coming in contact with the blood of an infected individual. The spread of this virus is NOT from kissing, hugging, sharing utensils used for cooking or eating, sharing food off the plate of a patient, or any casual contact. Hepatitis C virus is spread through the exchange of blood from an infected person to a non-infected person. And, it is important to remember that once cured from the virus, you are not immune and may catch it again if you are exposed. There is no vaccine to protect you from hepatitis C.
How to protect yourself
To protect yourself, and others, do not share personal hygiene items such as nail clippers, razors. and toothbrushes. Sexual transmission/ If you are not in a long-term monogamous relationship, use barrier protection (such as condoms) when engaging in sex. If you are infected, dispose of anything with blood on it very carefully. If you use injectable drugs, do not share needles, cotton, water, or any equipment, and do not become a blood donor. Clean up blood spills with a 1 part bleach to 10 parts water solution. Wear gloves if helping an injured person.
Who should be tested
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) recommends all baby boomers should be tested one time. A baby boomer is a person born between 1945 and 1965. The CDC tells us that 75% of patients with hepatitis C, or who die from hepatitis C, are baby boomers. The vast majority of these individuals do not know they are infected. Many do not remember having any risk factors. For those people who are born to a hepatitis C positive mother, a small percentage may have the virus. If a person has used IV drugs, even one time, even a long time ago, they should be tested.
Healthcare workers who have gotten a needle-stick or have been exposed to blood, patients on dialysis, hemophiliacs who have received blood products before 1987, and patients who received a blood transfusion before 1992 are also at risk. HIV positive patients should be tested as well. Approximately 30% of HIV patients are co-infected with HCV. Recipients of tattoos or piercings that were not done in a sanitary professional place may have come in contact with infected blood. You do not have to be able to see the blood to become infected. Even a microscopic amount of blood from a hepatitis C positive person is infective.
Why get tested?
It is important to heed the advice of the CDC. If you are born between 1945 and 1965, get tested even if you do not have any risk factors. Being a baby boomer is risk factor enough to be screened. If you are not a baby boomer but have other risk factors, get tested. With the FDA approval of many new direct acting antivirals, treatment has become much easier: side effects are minimal, treatment duration is usually 12 weeks, and the treatments are curing between 90 and 99% of patients GET TESTED, GET CURED!
Has hep C had an impact on your relationships?