Hepatitis C Prevention And Tattoos
The risk of hepatitis C exposure during the tattooing process comes from the reuse of unsterilized needles that may still have a previous clientâs blood on them. If a tattoo artist does not use new pots of ink, blood may also get into the tattoo ink.
Even if the blood is not visible on the equipment, hepatitis C can still spread. HCV can live outside the body and on surfaces for a long time, with some evidence from 2013 suggesting it can remain infectious for up to 6 weeks outside the body.
To reduce the risk of HCV transmission, a person should only go to a licensed tattoo parlor. The laws around tattoos vary from state to state. To ensure a safe and hygienic environment, a tattoo artist will:
- wear gloves throughout the process
- use new needles from a separate, sterilized packet
- use new ink and containers
- wrap everything they may touch during the procedure in plastic wrap
It is not advisable to receive a tattoo if the artist does not follow these hygienic procedures, as it increases the risk of health complications. To further reduce the risk of any infection during the healing process, a person should also follow the aftercare advice given by the tattoo artist.
Can A Person Get A Tattoo If They Have Hepatitis C
A person with hepatitis C may still get a tattoo, but they should tell their tattoo artist. Some artists may not be comfortable tattooing in this case, or may advise them to wait until their treatment is complete.
A person with hepatitis C wishing to get a tattoo should seek out an artist who is qualified and experienced in tattooing people with hepatitis C. The artist may take further measures during the tattoo, such as wearing a mask or adding extra plastic coverings on surfaces.
Staying Healthy With Hepatitis
Not everyone needs treatment right away, but its important to be monitored regularly by an experienced doctor and discuss treatment options of the best way to keep you healthy.
- Get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
- Avoid alcohol and drugs
- Eat a healthy & balanced diet. Include a lot of vegetables and fruits try to stay away from too much salt, sugar and fat.
- Exercise regularly. Walking is one of the best exercises, and it helps to make you feel less tired.
- Check with a health professional before taking any prescription pills, supplements, or over-the-counter medications.
- Do not share razors, nail clippers, needles or other items that come in contact with blood with other people.
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How Do People Get Hepatitis C
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Hepatitis C infection happens most often in people who:
- Are being treated in a health care setting where needles or other medical tools are not sterilized in the right way
Much less often, hepatitis C can happen:
- When a child is born to a mother who has hepatitis C
- From having sexual contact with a person who has hepatitis C
- From sharing items like a toothbrush or a razor with a person who has hepatitis C
In the past, hepatitis C would happen from:
- Medical procedures involving donated blood
- Before this time, the screening process for blood diseases within donated blood was not well controlled.
Teens With Hepatitis C
If your child wasn’t born with hepatitis C but got the illness in the teenage years, it likely happened from using unclean needles when injecting illicit drugs, having unsafe sex, or by coming into contact with infected blood. Up to 100,000 Americans between 12 and 19 have hepatitis C.
Without treatment, teens with hepatitis C can get cirrhosis. Although adults have a wide choice of antiviral drugs, the FDA has approved two for kids age 12 to 17:
Ledipasvir-sofosbuvir . It’s a combination antiviral drug that makes the virus disappear in up to 95% of children who use it. Your child may get side effects like diarrhea, feeling tired, or trouble sleeping.
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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.
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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But Even If You’ve Been Cured It Can Have Lifelong Health Implications
“Hepatitis C is a lot more than just a liver disease,” Reau says. “It has been associated with many medical conditions, such as an increased risk of developing diabetes, kidney disease and cancer.”
While curing hepatitis C significantly reduces the risk of serious complications, like liver failure, liver cancer and the need for transplantation, it doesn’t completely eliminate the health risks associated with the disease.
“Hep C is linked to scarring of the liver or cirrhosis and the more scar tissue that develops, the greater the likelihood of complications,” Reau says. “If there is a lot of scarring, you will need lifelong monitoring.”
Reau also recommends leading a healthy lifestyle to help prevent re-infection and further liver damage: Limit alcohol consumption, control your weight, avoid high-risk activities and manage diabetes if you have it.
Can You Get Hepatitis C From A Scratch Or A Small Cut
This is possible but not likely. You can contract the virus through any open wound that comes into contact with the blood of someone who has hepatitis C. That includes an open scratch or small cut. Cleaning and covering cuts can help you avoid any possible contact.
Carefully consider whether to use another persons hygienic items, such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, or personal medical equipment. You can contract hepatitis C if you share items that may have come into contact with traces of blood that carry the virus.
While this type of transmission is lower risk than other ways of contracting the virus, its a good practice to avoid sharing these kinds of products. Note that the other persons blood may be on the item even if you do not see it.
If you must share these items, clean and sanitize them before use to avoid contracting hepatitis C or other infections.
Additionally, avoid coming into contact with someone elses used bandages or period products such as pads and tampons.
most common way of contracting hepatitis C among people in the United States and Europe. When you inject yourself with drugs, the needle breaks the surface of your skin and comes into contact with your blood.
You should never share needles with others and should always use a new or sanitized needle if you are injecting it into your skin.
Dispose of used needles or syringes by using a sharps bin.
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Hepatitis C In Kids Up To Age 12
Hepatitis C goes away without treatment 40% of the time before a child’s second birthday. The virus has disappeared in some kids as old as 7.
If your child still has hepatitis C after they turn 2, you may hear your doctor call it a “chronic” infection. For most, the disease causes minor liver problems. About 25% of kids have a higher chance of getting scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis. Most of the time that doesn’t happen until the child becomes an adult.
If your child needs treatment, your doctor may suggest these medicines:
Interferon and ribavirin. Studies show it will end a hepatitis C infection in 50% to 90% of cases. It’s the only treatment approved for children under 12. Your child may have side effects that include fatigue, fever, chills, and depression.
Your doctor will likely recommend that your child get hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines, as well as a regular flu shot. Ask your doctor about medicines to avoid because they can cause liver damage, such as acetaminophen.
How Is Hepatitis C Diagnosed
Symptoms alone generally dont offer enough information for a doctor to diagnose hepatitis C. Whats more, you might not have symptoms or notice any signs of the condition.
Thats why its so important to connect with a doctor or other healthcare professional and ask about getting tested if youve been exposed to the hepatitis C virus.
The also recommend hepatitis C testing for people who have abnormal liver tests, along with those who are:
- on hemodialysis
A healthcare professional can order a few different tests to help diagnose hepatitis C. These include:
- Blood tests. They may order a series of blood tests to check for the virus, starting with a hepatitis C antibody test. A PCR test can tell your healthcare professional whether the virus is currently active, and viral load testing can measure the amount of virus in your blood.
- Genotype test. This test can reveal which hepatitis C genotype you have. This information will help your healthcare professional find an effective treatment approach.
- Liver function test. If blood test results suggest chronic hepatitis C or your healthcare professional believes you could have liver damage, theyll order a liver function test. This test checks your blood for signs of heightened enzymes from your liver.
- Liver biopsy.This procedure can also help check for liver damage. A biopsy involves taking a small piece of tissue from your liver and testing it for cell abnormalities.
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How Is Hepatitis C Transmitted
Because HCV is primarily spread through contact with infected blood, people who inject drugs are at increased risk for HCV infection. HCV can also be transmitted from an infected mother to child at the time of birth, from unregulated tattoos or body piercings, and from sharing personal items that may be contaminated with infected blood, even in amounts too small to see. Much less often, HCV transmission occurs through sexual contact with an HCV-infected partner, especially among people with multiple sex partners and men who have sex with men. Currently in the United States, health care related transmission of HCV is rare, but people can become infected from accidental needle sticks and from breaches in infection control practices in health care facilities.
Can People With Hep C Be Blood Donors
You are ruled out as a blood donor if you have had hepatitis C, even if you have no symptoms. All blood donations in the U.S. are tested for hepatitis C antibodies, which will indicate whether the person has had HCV in the past. This is essential to prevent the transmission of HCV to the blood recipients.
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Baby Boomers Are Especially Vulnerable
“The hepatitis C virus didn’t have a name or a screening test until in 1989,” Reau says. “That means people born between 1945 and 1965, the group referred to as ‘baby boomers,’ are at highest risk of infection. They grew up before health care facilities started taking standard precautions, like not sharing vials of medicine among patients and requiring staff to wear gloves.”
The CDC reports that baby boomers are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C than other adults, accounting for 75% of those living with the disease.
These are some other reasons you may be at risk:
- You have engaged in high-risk behaviors like IV drug use or unprotected sex
- Your biological mother has/had hepatitis C
- You received blood transfusions, an organ transplant or dialysis before 1989
- You were or are currently incarcerated
Who Is More Likely To Get Hepatitis C
People more likely to get hepatitis C are those who
- have injected drugs
- had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- have hemophilia and received clotting factor before 1987
- have been on kidney dialysis
- have been in contact with blood or infected needles at work
- have had tattoos or body piercings
- have worked or lived in a prison
- were born to a mother with hepatitis C
- are infected with HIV
- have had more than one sex partner in the last 6 months or have a history of sexually transmitted disease
- are men who have or had sex with men
In the United States, injecting drugs is the most common way that people get hepatitis C.13
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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:
Reactive Or Positive Hepatitis C Antibody Test
- A reactive or positive antibody test means that Hepatitis C antibodies were found in the blood and a person has been infected with the Hepatitis C virus at some point in time.
- Once people have been infected, they will always have antibodies in their blood. This is true even if they have cleared the Hepatitis C virus.
- A reactive antibody test does not necessarily mean that you have Hepatitis C. A person will need an additional, follow-up test.
Persons for Whom HCV Testing Is Recommended
- Adults born from 1945 through 1965 should be tested once
- Those who:
- Ever injected drugs, including those who injected once or a few times many years ago
- Have certain medical conditions, including persons:
- who received clotting factor concentrates produced before 1987
- who were ever on long-term hemodialysis
- with persistently abnormal alanine aminotransferase levels
- who have HIV infection
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How We Care For Hepatitis C
The Center for Childhood Liver Disease at Boston Children’s Hospital is one of the leading centers in the world for the care of children with hepatitis C. The centers director, Maureen Jonas, MD is a national leader in the care, diagnosis and treatment for children with viral hepatitis. Dr. Jonas, along with her team, wrote the clinical guidelines that shape the way pediatric GI specialists and pediatricians around the country treat hepatitis C.
In addition to the standard treatments, our team of certified pediatric hepatologists is also at the forefront of treatment research, treating adolescents with newly approved treatments for adults and conducting clinical trials to help make them available to children as young as 3 years of age.