How Is Hepatitis C Passed
Hepatitis C is generally passed by direct blood-to-blood contact. This occurs when a persons blood is exposed to the blood of someone with hepatitis C infection through a break or tear in the skin or mucous membranes. In Canada, the most common way a person gets hepatitis C is through sharing injection drug use equipment.7 Hepatitis C can also be passed through sharing equipment for smoking drugs, such as pipes and mouthpieces,8 and it can potentially be passed through sharing straws for snorting drugs.9
Although hepatitis C is not as easily transmitted through sex as HIV and hepatitis B,10 hepatitis C can enter the body through the rectal mucous membranes during sex. The hepatitis C virus is thought to enter the body through a tear in the mucous membrane of the rectum or by a sore caused by an ulcerative STI, such as syphilis. The virus can be passed into the rectum via a penis, hand or sex toy that has blood with hepatitis C on it.6 There is also evidence of high enough volumes of hepatitis C virus in the semen11 and rectal fluid12 of some gbMSM living with HIV to pass hepatitis C. .
How Hepatitis C Cant Spread
Unlike the flu or common cold, hepatitis isnt airborne. That means it cant be passed through sneezing, coughing, or sharing your food with someone else. Likewise, you cant get it through kissing or hugging someone with the virus.
Theres a small risk of infection if you share personal care items that come in contact with infected blood, like a toothbrush or razor.
The risk of transmission or contraction from sexual contact is very low if both partners are monogamous. However, you should use a condom if you and your partner have had multiple sexual relationships or sex with someone you know has hepatitis C.
As far as traveling, you cant get the virus abroad unless you come into contact with infected blood or receive blood products that contain HCV.
Building Healthy Sexual Relationships
Rule number one for a healthy sexual relationship: Be open and honest with your partners. I believe in transparency, says Talal. This conversation can be difficult, but its important to have. Part of discussing your status is talking about what exposure you may have had to hepatitis C, even in the distant past.
Its a good opportunity for you both to share your sexual history, as well as your experiences with other ways hepatitis C can be transmitted, such as using injection drugs or being exposed to items that may have blood on them, including needles, razors, and toothbrushes.
Sherman explains that even if you consistently use condoms during sex, other activities, such as sharing needles to inject drugs or sharing straws to snort them, increase your risk of spreading hepatitis C. People do not want to hear about this, he says. Its difficult to get the word out about risk.
If you and your partner find that hepatitis C is disrupting your relationship or your sex life, you might also consider working with a marriage and family therapist or a sex therapist.
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Sexual Transmission And Hepatitis C
Although not common, hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual activity. Having a sexually transmitted infection, having sex with multiple partners, and engaging in anal sex appear to increase a persons risk for hepatitis C. MSM with multiple sex partners who are coinfected with HCV and HIV have been shown to transmit hepatitis C. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The best way to prevent hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. CDC recommends one-time hepatitis C testing of all adults and regular testing for people with risk factors. The American Association for the Study of Liver Disease and the Infectious Diseases Society of America also recommend that people who are infected with HCV be provided with curative, direct-acting antiviral medicationsexternal icon to treat their HCV infection.
Additional Tests You Might Need
Once youve been diagnosed with Hepatitis C, your doctor will likely order a number of tests to find out about the health of your liver and decide on a treatment plan thats most appropriate for you.
Hepatitis C genotype
The Hepatitis C genotype refers to a specific strain or type of the Hepatitis C virus. There are six major types of Hepatitis C around the world: genotypes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. In the United States, genotypes 1, 2, and 3 are common:
- Genotype 1: Most Americans with Hepatitis C have this type
- Genotype 2: About 10% of Americans with Hepatitis C have this type
- Genotype 3: About 6% of Americans with Hepatitis C have this type
The genotype of Hepatitis C does not change over time, so you only need to get tested once.
Genotype tests are done before a person starts treatment. Hepatitis C treatment works differently for different genotypes, so knowing your genotype helps your doctor choose the best treatment for you.
Testing for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
Your doctor may test to see if your body is immune to Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. If these tests show no prior exposure or protection, he or she will recommend that you be vaccinated against these two viruses to eliminate the chance of becoming infected.
Liver function tests or liver enzymes
Liver function tests also include ALP and total bilirubin, among other things.
Tests to measure liver scarring or fibrosis
- Liver Biopsy
- Serum markers
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Sexual Transmission And Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B can be transmitted through sexual activity. Unvaccinated adults who have multiple sex partners, along with sex partners of people with chronic hepatitis B infection, are at increased risk for transmission. Injection-drug use and sexual contact are other common modes of hepatitis B transmission in the United States.
Among adults seeking treatment in STD clinics, as many as 10%40% have evidence of past or current hepatitis B virus infection. Many of these infections could have been prevented through universal vaccination during delivery of STD prevention or treatment services. Offering vaccination to all adults as part of routine prevention services in STD treatment facilities has been demonstrated to increase vaccination coverage among adults at risk for hepatitis B infection, as the behavioral risk factors for STDs and hepatitis B are similar.
What Are The Chances Of Getting Hep C Sexually
Hepatitis C spreads by contact with an infected persons blood. Although uncommon, hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual activity, if the person has genital sores and cuts. It can also be transmitted during menstruation. However, just 2% of hepatitis C cases are sexually transmitted.
The risk of getting hepatitis C sexually increases in the following situations:
- Men who have sex with men
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Hcv Transmission During Sex: Is It Possible
Some research suggests that a small percentage of people do contract hep C through blood-to-blood contact that may occur during sexual contact. Thus, transmission of hep C during sex is seen as possible but is believed to be rare.
If hep C is transmitted during sex, it is likely to be through blood-to-blood contact. This emphasises the need for safe sex practices where there is a risk of blood-to-blood contact, e.g. sex when you have cuts or lesions on or close to the genitals, during anal sex , during menstruation, and during sexual practices that may involve bleeding or broken skin.
Some studies suggest a slightly increased rate of hep C transmission in people with multiple sexual partners and high levels of sexual activity. These studies, though, have usually found it difficult to exclude other possible routes of transmission, e.g. injecting drug use.
Research increasingly suggests the risk of transmission of hep C through sexual contact among heterosexual people is minimal.
When Should You Contact Doctor If You Think You Have Hepatitis
Fortunately, for some types of hepatitis , there are preventative treatments. Consequently, if a person suspects that they may have been recently exposed to any type of infectious hepatitis, they should contact their health-care professional quickly to prevent liver damage.
If a person has the following symptoms for days, they should seek medical care urgently.
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Dendritic Cells In Sexual Transmission Of Hcv
Molecular mechanisms of HCV transmission
Submucosal DCs capture HCV and migrate into the lymphoid tissues to transmit HCV to PBMCs which might lead to further dissemination HCV to the liver. Mucosal LCs capture HCV after immune activation by STIs and either retain HCV in the tissue which could increase the chance of virus to egress into the bloodstream and disseminate to the liver or migrate into the lymphoid tissues thereby allowing HCV dissemination to the liver. DCSIGN, dendritic cellspecific ICAMgrabbing nonintegrin HCV, Hepatitis C virus HIV1, Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 PBMC, peripheral blood mononuclear cells STI, Sexual transmitted infections.
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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Sharing Toothbrushes Scissors And Razors
There’s a potential risk that hepatitis C may be passed on through sharing items such as toothbrushes, razors and scissors, as they can become contaminated with infected blood.
Equipment used by hairdressers, such as scissors and clippers, can pose a risk if it has been contaminated with infected blood and not sterilised or cleaned between customers. However, most salons operate to high standards, so this risk is low.
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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More Ways To Reduce The Risk Of Infection
If you arent sure whether you have hepatitis C, get tested. Testing is especially important if you have sex with more than one person or if you have other risk factors for hepatitis C, including being born being 1945 and 1965, having had a blood transfusion prior to 1992, and injecting drugs .
Talk to your partner about getting tested as well, for hepatitis C and other STDs, so you know the risks before having sex. People who are at risk for hepatitis C are also at risk for HIV and other STDs, emphasizes Talal.
What It Can Do To You
Hepatitis C is very serious and contagious liver disease that can be mild and last a few weeks or become a serious and lifelong illness that attacks the liver. This can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.
If you are pregnant and infected with hepatitis C virus, you may pass the virus to your baby. About 4 out of every 100 infants born to mothers with hepatitis C become infected with the virus. Breastfeeding is not considered a risk. However, if your nipples are cracked and bleeding, you should stop breastfeeding until they are healed.
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What Can I Do If I Think I Have Hepatitis C
A doctor or sexual health clinician can test you to see if you have hepatitis C. If you do, effective treatment with fewer side effects than the older medicine is available and you can discuss how to avoid infecting your sexual partners or people you live with.
It can take three to six months before the blood test for hepatitis C will be able to detect signs of infection in your blood. For people with HIV who may be immunocompromised, the antibody may not be detectable and it may be necessary to request an RNA test which detects the virus.
What To Know About Hepatitis C During Oral And Anal Sex
Oral sex does not pose an increased risk of transmitting the hepatitis C virus, according to the American Liver Foundation, unless there are open sores or cuts in the mouth. To be safe, however, the CDC recommends using a new latex condom whenever you have oral sex to reduce the risk of transmitting hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections like HIV.
Anal sex is high-risk, though, because rectal tissue is fragile and can easily tear when manipulated or pushed to expand. If the tissue tears and bleeds, theres a chance for blood-to-blood contact. For this reason, its best to always use a condom during anal sex. Its also important to liberally apply water- or silicone-based lubricant to keep anal tissue and condoms from tearing.
If you use sex toys, it may be safest to avoid sharing them. If youre engaging in rough sex that results in skin tears, even tiny traces of infected blood that remain on a toy can pass through openings in the skin although the risk of spreading bloodborne diseases remains very low. Whats more, the human papilloma virus has been transmitted via sex toys, even after cleaning.
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What The Cdc Recommends
Were you born between 1945 and 1965? If so, then youre a member of the Hepatitis C generation. The CDC recently recommended that all people born between during this time have a 1-time screening test for Hepatitis C. We now have new drugs that can treat and cure Hepatitis C so you should go get tested today.
The life you save may be your own! Please contact your local healthcare provider.
Can Hep C Be Transmitted Sexually
Responsible, sexually active people are educating themselves on safe sex, and this education includes learning about Hepatitis Cs potential for transmission during sexual contact. Creating confusion and instilling mystery, conflicting reports about whether this virus is contracted sexually continues to circulate throughout our society. Although not exclusively considered a sexually transmitted disease, the Hepatitis C virus has the potential to be spread through sexual contact.
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For Safer Sex Treat Hepatitis C
If you have chronic hepatitis C, of the best strategies for preventing transmission of the virus is to get medical treatment. More than 90 percent cases of hepatitis C can be cured within 8 to 12 weeks of treatment, according to the CDC. Newer hepatitis C treatments are not only effective but generally have fewer and much less severe side effects than previous drugs.
Just be aware that during treatment, transmission can still occur. And a cure doesnt grant you protection against the virus for life. If you continue to engage in high-risk behavior, you can get re-infected, warns Kenneth Sherman, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine and the director of the division of digestive diseases at UC Health in Cincinnati, Ohio.
What Is The Treatment For Hepatitis
Each type of hepatitis is treated differently.
Hepatitis A often goes away on its own and home treatment is all that is needed to help the liver recover, such as:
- Avoiding alcohol
- Avoiding certain medicines that can be harmful to the liver
Hepatitis B often goes away on its own in about 6 months, and can also be treated at home with the above remedies. Other treatments for hepatitis B include:
- Antiviral medications
- Liver transplant in severe cases
Treatment for hepatitis C is effective on certain forms of the hepatitis C virus. The choice of medications depends on the type of hepatitis C you have, whether you have been treated for the illness before, how much liver damage has occurred, any other underlying medical issues, and other medicines you take. Treatment for hepatitis C usually involves 8 to 12 weeks of oral antiviral medications, such as:
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What Are The Different Types Of Hepatitis
There are five different types of hepatitis, labeled Hep A, B, C, D and E. Each type has slightly different symptoms, and most types can be treated successfully. Hepatitis C, however, can cause lifelong illness and extreme damage to the liver. Teachers and medical workers are at increased risk of contracting most forms of this disease through exposure to blood or bodily fluids in their work settings.
Hepatitis A is usually contracted through sharing food or water with an infected person. It may also be contracted through sexual contact or contact with body fluids, like infected blood or urine. Most people who contract this form completely recover, though the condition can make people very ill. Like all other forms of hepatitis, Hep A causes inflammation of the liver.
The treatment for Hep A is usually rest, and it may take as long as six months to fully recover. Initial symptoms are fever, aches and exhaustion, which can persist for several months. During this time, the person with hepatitis is contagious and can pass the illness to others, through the above listed means of transmission.