How Is Hepatitis C Infection Prevented
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. To reduce your risk of getting hepatitis C:
- Injection drug use is the most common way people get hepatitis C. Avoid injecting drugs to reduce your risk. If you do inject drugs, use sterile injection equipment. Avoid reusing or sharing.
- Avoid sharing personal care items that might have blood on them
- If you are a health care or public safety worker, follow universal blood/body fluid precautions and safely handle needles and other sharps
- Consider the risks if you are thinking about tattooing, body piercing, or acupuncture are the instruments properly sterilized?
- If youre having sex with more than one partner, use latex condoms correctly and every time to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including hepatitis C.
Effective Treatments Are Available For Hepatitis C
New medication to treat for HCV have been approved in recent years. These treatments are much better than the previously available treatment because they have few side effects and do not need to be injected. There are several direct-acting antiviral HCV treatments that cure more than 95% of people who take them in 8 to 12 weeks. HCV treatment dramatically reduces deaths among people with HCV infection, and people who are cured of HCV are much less likely to develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Take Action! CDCs National Prevention Information Network Service Locator helps consumers locate hepatitis B and hepatitis C prevention, care, and treatment services.
What Can A Person With Chronic Hepatitis C Do To Take Care Of His Or Her Liver
People with chronic hepatitis C should be monitored regularly by an experienced doctor. They should avoid alcohol because it can cause additional liver damage. They also should check with a health professional before taking any prescription pills, supplements, or over-the-counter medications, as these can potentially damage the liver. If liver damage is present, a person should check with his or her doctor about getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
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Who Is Most At Risk Of Contracting Hepatitis C
You have a high risk of contracting hepatitis C if you:
- use or have used injection drugs even if it was just once or many years ago
- have received blood or blood products or an organ transplant before July 1990 in Canada
- have been in jail or
- have been injected or scratched during vaccination, surgery, blood transfusion or a religious/ceremonial ritual in regions where hepatitis C is common.
You have a high moderate risk of contracting hepatitis C if you:
- have tattoos or body piercing
- have multiple sexual partners
- have a sexually transmitted infection , including HIV or lymphogranuloma venereum
- have experienced traumatic sex or rough sex or have used sex toys or fisting that can tear body tissue
- have vaginal sex during menstruation
- have received a kidney treatment
- have received an accidental injury from a needle or syringe
- have another infectious disease
- were born to a hepatitis C infected mother or
- have a sexual partner infected with hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is NOT passed from person to person by:
- coughing, sneezing
- breastfeeding unless your nipples are cracked and bleeding or
- oral sex, unless blood is present.
How The Hepatitis C Virus Spreads
In the past, hepatitis C was often spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. This changed in 1992 when widespread, more-advanced blood screening techniques became available.
The risk of contracting HCV in this manner is now less than one chance per 2 million units transfused, according to the CDC. But former transfusion practices are likely one reason why hepatitis C disproportionately affects baby boomers, who received blood transfusions before better screening was implemented. People born between 1945 and 1965 make up about three-quarters of the 3.5 million Americans with hepatitis C.
Today the most common way that hepatitis is spread is through the sharing of needles and other equipment for drug use. Though baby boomers are still more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than people of other age groups, the CDC reported in 2017 that new hepatitis C infections had almost tripled over the previous five years and, as a group, 20- to 29-year-olds have the highest number of new infections. This is seen as a result of the increased use of IV drugs connected to the opioid epidemic in the United States.
The CDC also notes that infections are rising among women of childbearing age. While the virus is not always transmitted from a pregnant woman to her baby, it is possible: About 6 infants in 100 born to mothers with the virus are infected.
You can also be exposed to HCV through:
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What Are The Symptoms Of Chronic Hepatitis C
Most people with chronic hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. However, if a person has been infected for many years, his or her liver may be damaged. In many cases, there are no symptoms of the disease until liver problems have developed. In persons without symptoms, hepatitis C is often detected during routine blood tests to measure liver function and liver enzyme level.
Parenteral Routes: Transmission Of Hepatitis B Hepatitis D And Hepatitis C
Hepatitis B, C, and D viruses are all transmitted by what is known as the parenteral route. Parenteral simply means that these viruses can be introduced by all routes except through the intestinal tract, which leaves the door wide open in terms of possible exposure. Let’s look at the possible transmission routes for each of these types of hepatitis virus more closely.
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Pregnancy And Hepatitis C
Should pregnant women be tested for HCV antibodies?
Yes. All pregnant women should be screened for anti-HCV during each pregnancy, except in settings where the prevalence of HCV infection is < 0.1% . Pregnant women with known risk factors should be tested during each pregnancy, regardless of setting prevalence. Any pregnant women testing positive for anti-HCV should receive a PCR test for HCV RNA to determine current infection status.
Can a mother with hepatitis C infect her infant during birth?
The overall risk of an infected mother transmitting HCV to her infant is approximately 4%8% per pregnancy . Transmission occurs during pregnancy or childbirth, and no prophylaxis is available to protect the newborn from infection. The risk is significantly higher if the mother has a high HCV viral load, or is coinfected with HIV with which the rate of transmission ranges from 8%15% . Most infants infected with HCV at birth have no symptoms.
Should a woman with hepatitis C be advised against breastfeeding?
When should children born to HCV-infected mothers be tested to see if they were infected at birth?
Tips For Preventing Transmission Through Sex
If youre sexually active with a person who has hepatitis C, there are ways that you can prevent contracting the virus. Likewise, if you have the virus, you can avoid infecting others.
A few steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of sexual transmission include:
- using a condom during every sexual contact, including oral sex
- learning to use all barrier devices correctly to prevent ripping or tearing during intercourse
- resisting engaging in sexual contact when either partner has an open cut or wound in their genitals
- being tested for STIs and asking sexual partners to be tested too
- practicing sexual monogamy
- using extra precautions if youre HIV-positive, as your chance of contracting HCV is much higher if you have HIV
If you have hepatitis C, you should be honest with all sexual partners about your status. This ensures that youre both taking the proper precautions to prevent transmission.
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Articles On Hepatitis C
If you’ve just been diagnosed with hepatitis C, you may wonder how you got it and worry about passing on the virus to a loved one. If you’ve had the disease for a long time without knowing it, you could dwell on every little incident in the past where you might have accidentally exposed a family member to the disease.
It’s important to remember that hepatitis C isn’t easy to catch. If you take a few precautions, it’s almost impossible to pass on the disease to someone else.
How Common Is Chronic Hepatitis C In The United States
An estimated 3.2 million persons in the United States have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Most people do not know they are infected because they dont look or feel sick. In 2013, hepatitis C-related mortality surpassed the total combined number of deaths from 60 other infectious diseases reported to CDC, including HIV, pneumococcal disease, and tuberculosis.
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How To Prevent Transmission
Between 2% and 6% of adults infected with hepatitis B virus will develop chronic hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver failure and liver cancer, so protecting yourself is important.
The hepatitis B vaccine is safe for almost everyone and about 95% effective for providing long-term protection against hepatitis B infection.
While anyone can benefit from the vaccine, people who are at a greater risk of being exposed to the virus because of their work, lifestyle or medical history are strongly encouraged to be immunized. In many countries, babies born to infected mothers get vaccinated at birth. All babies born in the United States are routinely vaccinated.
Hepatitis B immune globulin , is another way to prevent hepatitis B infection in babies born to infected mothers or after exposure to the virus. This uses concentrated antibodies to provide immediate protection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is given as a shot and can provide short-term protection against hepatitis B.
Because the hepatitis B vaccine does not protect against HIV, hepatitis C or other diseases spread through sex and contact with blood, it’s still important to keep using basic protective strategies. Practicing safer sex and not sharing needles are recommended even if you’re immune to hepatitis B.
Getting Tested Is The Only Way To Know If You Have Hepatitis C
A blood test called a hepatitis C antibody test can tell if you have been infected with the hepatitis C viruseither recently or in the past. If you have a positive antibody test, another blood test is needed to tell if you are still infected or if you were infected in the past and cleared the virus on your own.
- Are 18 years of age and older
- Are pregnant
- Currently inject drugs
- Have ever injected drugs, even if it was just once or many years ago
- Have HIV
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Are on hemodialysis
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Sharing Personal Care Items
The chances of spreading hepatitis C within your household are low but possible. To be safe, don’t share personal care items that could be contaminated with blood, Lee says. These include razors, toothbrushes, cuticle scissors, and nail clippers.
In addition, be mindful when you go to nail salons or barbershops, where the same tools are used on all customers. A study published in the November-December 2014 issue of the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice found that while regulations to safeguard the public exist in most states, it’s unknown how many businesses comply with them. Ask about tool-sterilization procedures before you frequent these establishments. You can also bring your own nail care supplies.
How Is Hepatitis C Spread
The hepatitis C virus is spread through contact with infected blood and bodily fluids, such as semen and vaginal fluid. You will only be infected if the virus enters your bloodstream.
In Canada, most people are infected by:
- using or sharing drug paraphernalia contaminated with infected blood, including:
If you have hepatitis C, you can pass the virus to your baby during:
- breastfeeding if your nipples are cracked and bleeding, and your baby also has bleeding in or on the mouth
- it can be hard to tell if a baby has bleeding in or on the mouth
- cracked nipples may not be bleeding but may begin to during breastfeeding
You can also be infected if you receive contaminated:
- blood products
Although rare, hepatitis C can also be spread through unprotected sex especially if it involves blood contact, such as:
- contact with:
- open sores, cuts or wounds
- semen or vaginal fluid if blood is present
Unprotected sex means having sex without using a condom or other barrier safely.
Hepatitis C is not spread through:
- breast milk
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Enteric Routes: Transmission Of Hepatitis A And Hepatitis E
The Hepatitis A and hepatitis E viruses are both transmitted by enteric, that is digestive or by fecal, routes. This is also known as the fecal-oral route. To be exposed to these viruses, you must ingest fecal matter that is infected with the virus. While there are several ways in which this fecal-oral route can be established, poor hygiene and poor sanitary conditions in some countries lead to higher rates of infection of these viruses.
As a result, some areas of the world, like India, Bangladesh, and Central and South America, are particularly prone to the hepatitis E virus. About one-third of people in the United States have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus.
It is believed that the hepatitis F virus may also be spread by enteric routes.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis C
During the acute phase most persons have no symptoms or might experience a mild illness. Symptoms of acute HCV infection, when present, may include:
- Dark-colored urine, light-colored stools
During the chronic phase hepatitis C usually progresses silently, with no symptoms at all during the first 10-20 years. Signs of severe liver scarring may include:
- Star-shaped vein pattern developing on the swollen belly
- Easy bruising and bleeding
Because symptoms of hepatitis C are usually absent, persons with risk for HCV infection should be tested. The blood test for hepatitis C infection is called the hepatitis C antibody test. People who have hepatitis C infection will show positive antibodies on this test. In many cases, it is necessary to confirm a positive hepatitis C antibody test with a more specific test, such as a test for HCV virus RNA.
If you think you have hepatitis C or have risk for hepatitis C, you should contact your doctor. The Communicable Disease Control Unit may be able to help answer your questions.
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Hiv And Hepatitis C Coinfection
HCV infection is common among people with HIV who also inject drugs. Nearly 75% of people living with HIV who report a history of injection drug use are co-infected with HCV. All people who are diagnosed with HIV are recommended to be tested for HCV at least once. People living with HIV are at greater risk for complications and death from HCV infection. Fortunately, direct acting antivirals that are used to treat HCV work equally well in people with and without HIV infection. For more information about HIV and HCV coinfection, visit the HIV.govs pages about hepatitis C and HIV coinfection.
Types Of Hepatitis C Infection
There are six major identified hepatitis C virus genotypes, that is, specific genetic sequencing of the virus. In the United States, genotypes 1, 2 and 3 are most common, with genotype 1 accounting for the majority of cases.
Your child’s genotype is important because certain genotypes respond better to treatment than others and the treatment regimen is different depending on the genotype. Your child’s doctor will test to see which genotype your child has before starting therapy for your child’s infection.
In addition to the genotypes of hepatitis C, there are two common forms of hepatitis C infection: acute and chronic.
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How Does Hepatitis C Spread
Hepatitis C is spread only through exposure to an infected person’s blood.
High-risk activities include:
- Sharing drug use equipment. Anything involved with injecting street drugs, from syringes, to needles, to tourniquets, can have small amounts of blood on it that can transmit hepatitis C. Pipes and straws to smoke or snort drugs can have blood on them from cracked lips or nosebleeds. Get into a treatment program if you can. At the very least, don’t share needles or equipment with anyone else.
- Sharing tattoo or piercing tools. Nonsterile items and ink can spread contaminated blood.
- Blood transfusions in countries that donât screen blood for hepatitis C.
- Nonsterile medical equipment. Tools that arenât cleaned properly between use can spread the virus.
- Blood or cutting rituals. Sharing the tools or exchanging blood can transmit hepatitis C.
Medium-risk activities include:
What Are The Symptoms And Consequences Of Infection
Approximately 20 percent of persons exposed to the virus develop symptoms which may include jaundice , fatigue, dark-colored urine, stomach pain, loss of appetite and nausea. After the initial infection, 15-25 percent will recover and 75-85 percent will become chronically infected . Approximately 70 percent of persons chronically infected may develop liver disease, sometimes decades after initial infection.
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How To Prevent Hepatitis C
There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C. Avoiding contact with infected blood is the only way to prevent the condition.
The most common way for people to contract hepatitis C is by injecting street drugs. Because of this, the best way to prevent hepatitis C is to avoid injecting.
Treatments can help many people quit. People in the U.S. can call the National Helpline for help with finding treatments.
If a person finds it difficult to stop, they can reduce the risk of contracting hepatitis C by never sharing drug equipment, ensuring a clean, hygienic environment, and always using new equipment, including syringes, ties, alcohol swabs, cottons, and cookers.
People who may come into contact with infected blood, such as healthcare workers and caretakers, should always wash the hands thoroughly with soap and water after any contact, or suspected contact, with blood. They should also wear gloves when touching another persons blood or open wounds.
People can also reduce their risk by making sure that any tattoo artist or body piercer they visit uses fresh, sterile needles and unopened ink.
The risk of contracting hepatitis C through sexual contact is low. Using barrier protection, such as condoms, reduces the risk of most sexually transmitted infections.
People who have hepatitis C can reduce the risk of transmitting it to others by:
There are many misconceptions about how hepatitis C spreads. People cannot transmit or contract the virus through: