Proactive Steps to Keep You Safe from Hepatitis C
Last updated: June 2023
For many, the risk of contracting viral infections is a concern. Proactive steps can help keep you safe from hepatitis C and other blood-borne viral infections.
Have you felt stigmatized due to your hep C diagnosis?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that lives in the blood. The virus initially attacks the liver, causing inflammation that can lead to scarring and compromised liver function. If left untreated, hepatitis C can cause severe liver damage (cirrhosis), leading to a high risk for liver cancer and liver failure.
Reduce your risks
Hepatitis C spreads via blood-to-blood transmission. Good hygiene practices help prevent the spread of hepatitis C and other viral infections. For example:
- Always wear a bandage if you have a cut or sore. Cleaning and protecting open wounds help prevent infections of many types.
- If you are helping someone dress a wound, wear latex gloves for protection.
- Use good hygiene practice. Never share razors, toothbrushes, or nail clippers.
- Practice safe sex. Talk to your doctor about testing if you have had more than one sexual partner.
- Never use unsterilized equipment in tattoos or body piercing.
- Never use re-used needles or any devices used with injecting or inhaling drugs of any type.
- If you work in a medical facility or field and had a needle stick or exposure to hepatitis C-infected blood, clean the area. Seek testing and guidance from your doctor.
Dried blood can still be infectious. Hepatitis C can live on surfaces outside the body for several weeks. The CDC recommends clean surfaces with a bleach solution of one-part bleach to 9 parts water. Make sure to wear gloves when cleaning areas with dried blood.1
You cannot contract hepatitis C from:
- Casual contact
- Shaking or holding hands, hugging, or kissing
- Exposure to tears or salvia
- Eating food prepared by someone with hepatitis C
Seek testing and treatment
Get tested for hepatitis C. Never assume you don’t have hepatitis C or another viral infection even if you don’t show symptoms. Hepatitis C is known as the silent disease due to symptoms that often do not show up for years, even while the virus is damaging your liver. Testing for hepatitis C is not typically a routine part of annual blood work from your primary doctor.
If you have hepatitis C or another viral infection, practice good safety measures listed above. Seek care with a liver specialist like a hepatologist, gastroenterologist or infectious disease doctor. Seek treatment right away to avoid further liver damage.