Hepatitis C Reinfection and Recurrence
Last updated: June 2023
Hepatitis C re-infection and recurrence is a concern for many patients. Learning the facts versus assuming myths is important to keep yourself protected from re-infection and recurrence.
Fact versus myth about re-infection
Many believe if you have been exposed or had hepatitis C and been treated successfully that you cannot be re-infected. This is a myth and untrue. Hepatitis C lives in blood infected with the hep C virus. You can become re-infected with hepatitis C in a variety of ways.
Once you’ve had hepatitis C, even for a short time in the acute phase, your body builds antibodies, showing you have once had hepatitis C; This does not make you immune or prevent you from being re-infected.
Fact versus myth about recurrence
The hepatitis C virus mutates and replicates in the body rapidly. Treatment with direct-acting antivirals attacks the protein in the virus-cell, destroying it, thus making it impossible for the cell to replicate.
Once you have been treated for hepatitis C and received an SVR12, meaning 12 weeks after treatment was completed there is no hepatitis C virus detected in your blood, you are considered cured.
Within 12 weeks after treatment has been completed, there is sufficient time to detect the further activity of the virus; If none is detected, you have a less than 1% chance of hepatitis C recurring.
How hepatitis C is transmitted
Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood infected with hepatitis C in a variety of ways:
- When infected blood from someone who has hepatitis C comes in contact with someone’s open wound, cut, or sore
- Needles (syringes) or instruments with hepatitis C infected blood
- Dried blood infected with hep C - Hepatitis C can live on surfaces for a few weeks and should be cleaned by wearing latex gloves and cleaning the surface with part bleach and water mixture.
- Sharing toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers, and personal hygiene items
- Having unprotected sex with someone who has hepatitis C (if there is blood to blood contact)
- Pregnancy and birth from mother to the child - Transmission is low but can happen.
- Needlestick from those who work in the healthcare field and first responders
- Risk for those who have been incarcerated.
- Risk for those from tattoos or piercing with contaminated needles and equipment
- Those who received blood, blood products or organs prior to 1992
Caution and preventive measures will always need to be taken to keep you safe from being re-infected with hepatitis C. Be proactive, you're worth it!