Facts and Myths About Hepatitis C
Last updated: March 2022
With so many websites and blogs available these days, it’s no wonder you’ve likely heard tons of facts and “facts” about hepatitis C (HCV). Add in the “click bait” articles whose titles will say anything to get you to click on their pages, and before you know it, you’ve gone down a rabbit hole of websites, with each writer claiming to be some sort of expert. Sometimes, the writers even claim to be a doctor; whether of the scientific sort or the medical sort. It’s easy to get confused or to begin to panic because the information provided looks legitimate. Let’s clear some of the myths and facts about hepatitis C, shall we?
Myth: There is a vaccine for hepatitis C
Fact: Nope. There is no current vaccination, shot, pill, patch, or any other way to build a shield around yourself to prevent from exposure or infection of hepatitis C. Although some blogs or websites may purport to have a “miracle” method involving medications or homeopathic options, there is nothing that has been proven effective at preventing the transmission of HCV other than taking universal precautions when you may come into contact with another’s blood. This leads us to another myth…
Myth: Hepatitis C is always a sexually transmitted disease/it can only be transmitted by homosexual sex
Fact: Anyone who comes into contact with the blood of a person who has HCV can get hepatitis C. Although there is a small risk of transmission through sex, the risks are low. And even though the risks increase slightly more with anal sex as compared to vaginal penetration, there is still a low risk of transmission of HCV during sexual activity. Based on this, you and your partner might decide that condoms aren't always necessary. However, if the goal is specifically to prevent transmission of hepatitis C, condoms can help reduce that risk. To put this in perspective, approximately 2% of sexual partners of people with hepatitis C also test positive for HCV.
However, if you have hepatitis C, it is important to let any partner(s) know so that you can work together to be diligent in not coming into contact with blood, which may happen by accident if your partner(s) is/are unaware of the need to avoid things like sharing nail clippers, or taking additional precautions when having a nosebleed, cutting yourself while shaving, or other very common home occurrences.
Myth: A pregnant woman with hepatitis C is guaranteed to pass it on to her baby
Fact: It is not usually something transmitted from mother to child (this happens in less than 5% of the time a mother with hepatitis C is carrying), nor is it passed through breastfeeding (unless mom’s nipples are cracked and bleeding). That said, it is important for medical personnel to be told about your positive status when going through prenatal care so that the physicians and staff can discuss any concerns you may have about the birthing or breastfeeding process.
Myth: Everyone with hepatitis C has an addiction problem, either to alcohol, drugs, or both
Fact: Many misunderstand the correlation between hepatitis C and the liver. This can lead people to think that liver issues due to alcoholism must be connected to (or caused by) HCV. Not so. Hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. Alcoholism can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. Although either alcoholism or HCV will cause doctors to recommend additional care for your liver, one does not guarantee that the other is present in your body or in the body of another. As for drug addiction, there is an increased risk of contracting hepatitis C for drug users who utilize needles (specifically those who share needles with others or who use non-sterilized needles). Regardless, there is no reason to assume that a person who tells you that s/he has HCV is also confessing to an alcohol or drug addiction.
Myth: You can get hepatitis C from a mosquito or a toilet seat
Fact: There is no research showing that mosquitos transmit hepatitis C. As for toilet seats or any other surface, it is true that the virus can live on non-bodily surfaces for up to three weeks. However, because the blood would need to be HCV-positive, and it would need to come into contact with an open sore or wound on your own body, the odds of transmission are low. To reduce the risk of transmission from surfaces that have come in contact with HCV, it is recommended that surfaces be washed regularly using a dilution of one-part household bleach to ten-parts water, and gloves should be worn when cleaning up and kind of blood spills.1-6