Myth: Hepatitis C is a sexually transmitted disease.
Although there are rare cases in which a person can become exposed to hepatitis C during sexual intercourse, the most common transmission methods have nothing to do with sex. In addition, there is no record of anyone becoming infected with hepatitis C through oral or anal sex. Those whose sexual experiences involve blood may become exposed to the virus. The most common ways a person in a developed country can become exposed to the hepatitis C virus are through IV drug use or through the use of dirty needles at an unlicensed tattoo parlor. The most common way for a person in a more rural area or less developed area to be exposed is via the blood of a person who has been infected with the virus.
Myth: There is no cure for hepatitis C.
For approximately 15 years, there have been medication protocols that offer cure rates of up to 99%. However, these drugs often come with heavy side effects and a very hefty price tag. This means that, though there are drugs in existence that can essentially cure hepatitis C, not everyone has access to these drugs. Those in America may struggle to access the medication due to costs and insurance limitations. Those in other developed nations with universal healthcare may have easier and more consistent access to these drugs. People in underdeveloped nations may lack any access to these treatments at all. In short, the opportunity for a person to be cured from a hepatitis C infection varies widely, depending largely on where they live and how much money they have.
Myth: Hepatitis C is super rare so there is nothing to worry about.
Hepatitis C is more common than HIV and many other viruses. In Canada, for example, there are 3.5 times as many people with hepatitis C as there are people with HIV. In the United States, 3-5 million people have hepatitis C. It is estimated that there are up to 200 million people living with hepatitis C worldwide.
Myth: A person can get hepatitis C from hugs, toilet seats/airplane toilet seats, and sharing food with an infected person.
Absolutely not! The ways to become infected are rooted in the transmission of infected blood by one person to an open wound in another person. When hugging someone, unless they are bleeding, there is no risk of exposure to the virus. If you want to hug someone who is bleeding, it is recommended that you perform first aid to assist in stopping of the bleeding or help them to find someone who can do this before you hug them. When using the restroom, toilet seats are typically not covered in blood, which means there is no risk. However, if a restroom has blood, it is recommended that you let the facility know about this and that you use another restroom stall if possible. When using the restroom, it is safest to avoid touching any used sanitary products (pads and tampons), as there may be blood on these items, which may create a risk to you. When sharing food, unless blood is present on the food or on the utensils, there is no risk of exposure to the blood of the person you are sharing with, thus there is no risk to you. However, if you or another person has bleeding gums or mouth trauma, it is recommended that you do not share food or utensils.
Myth: Hepatitis C is not serious, even if I get infected, it’s no big deal.
Hepatitis C can be very serious. If left untreated, it can actually cause organ damage so significant that a transplant is required in order for the person to live. However, if a person begins treatment very soon after becoming infected with the virus, they may show little or no symptoms and they may experience few effects of having had the hepatitis C virus. Those who have had the virus for longer periods of time may experience short or long term symptoms which may resolve with medical intervention. This is why it is important that anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to the virus be tested as soon as possible.
Myth: A person vaccinated from Hepatitis A and B cannot get hepatitis C.
Although vaccinations are recommended by most physicians, each virus is different from the others. The vaccination received to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B does not at all impact the body’s ability to become infected with hepatitis C if they are exposed to that virus.
Check out Part 2 of Myths about HCV from Around the World.
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Hepatitis C. (2016). World Health Organization. Retrieved 24 September 2016, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs164/en/
Hepatitis C :: The Facts : The Epidemic - Worldwide Prevalence. (2016). Epidemic.org. Retrieved 24 September 2016, from http://www.epidemic.org/thefacts/theepidemic/worldPrevalence/
Hepatitis C: Dispelling the Myths. (2015). Hemophilia.ca. Retrieved 24 September 2016, from http://www.hemophilia.ca/files/HCV%201082A%20Dispelling%20the%20Myths%20leave%20behind%20June%202015.pdf
Learn about Hepatitis C (hep c). (2016). HepC.com. Retrieved 24 September 2016, from https://www.hepc.com/hep-c-myths-facts