How Is Hepatitis C Transmitted
The hepatitis C virus is spread primarily by exposure to blood.
People may get hepatitis C from needles, through exposure to blood in the workplace, from unsterile equipment used for body piercing, tattoos or acupuncture, exposure to dental or medical practices with poor infection control practices or by sharing personal care items including toothbrushes, nail clippers, razors, scissors with infected people. Sharing drug paraphernalia such as needles, spoons, pipes, and straws contaminated with blood has also been associated with a risk. The risk of getting this virus from a blood transfusion is minimal but still exists. All donated blood is screened for the hepatitis C virus.
Hepatitis C has been transmitted between sex partners. It has also been transmitted, although rarely, among household members, possibly because of frequent physical contact with small cuts or skin rashes. An infected mother can pass HCV to her child at birth.
There is no evidence that hepatitis C virus is spread by casual contact. Sneezing, coughing, kissing, and hugging do not pose the risk for hepatitis C. In addition, there is no evidence that hepatitis C virus is spread by food or water.
The hepatitis C virus can survive on surfaces outside the body for up to 3 weeks.
Preventing The Spread Of Hepatitis C
There is no vaccine available to prevent a person from being infected with hepatitis C. Recommended behaviours to prevent the spread of the virus include:
- Always use sterile injecting equipment. This can be accessed from your local needle and syringe program service.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, nail files or nail scissors, which can draw blood.
- If you are involved in body piercing, tattooing, electrolysis or acupuncture, always ensure that any instrument that pierces the skin is either single use or has been cleaned, disinfected and sterilised since it was last used.
- If you are a healthcare worker, follow standard precautions at all times.
- Wherever possible, wear single-use gloves if you give someone first aid or clean up blood or body fluids.
- Although hepatitis C is not generally considered to be a sexually transmissible infection in Australia, you may wish to consider safe sex practices if blood is going to be present, or if your partner has HIV infection. You may wish to further discuss this issue and personal risks with your doctor.
Diagnosis Of Hepatitis C
If you are at risk of hepatitis C infection, or think you may have been exposed to hepatitis C in the past, see your doctor for an assessment of your liver health. This will include blood tests and possibly a non-invasive test for liver damage .
There are 2 blood tests used to diagnose hepatitis C. Usually these can be done at the same time but sometimes they will be done separately.
The first test known as a hepatitis C antibody test can tell you whether you have ever been exposed to hepatitis C.
It may take 2 to 3 months from the time of infection until a blood test can detect antibodies to hepatitis C, so there is a window period during which you cannot tell if you are or have been infected. In this time, take precautions to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
The second test is called hepatitis C PCR, which will be done if the antibody test is positive. This determines if the virus is still present in your blood or liver or if you have already cleared the infection.
If you have cleared the virus or had successful treatment to cure it, the PCR test will be negative.
A liver ultrasound or Fibroscan can also be performed to assess if you have any liver damage.
If your doctor is inexperienced in diagnosing hepatitis C you can call the LiverLine on for information, and to find a GP who can help you.
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Ive Never Used Iv Drugs Or Been Stuck With A Dirty Needle How Did I Get Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is usually spread through direct contact with the blood of a person who has the disease. It can also be transmitted by needles used for tattooing or body piercing. In rare cases, hepatitis C can be passed from a mother to her unborn baby. This virus can be transmitted through sex and sharing razors or toothbrushes. These occurrences are also rare. Many times, the cause of hepatitis C is never found.
How Can I Protect Myself From Hepatitis C Infection
If you dont have hepatitis C, you can help protect yourself from hepatitis C infection by
- not sharing drug needles or other drug materials
- wearing gloves if you have to touch another persons blood or open sores
- making sure your tattoo artist or body piercer uses sterile tools and unopened ink
- not sharing personal items such toothbrushes, razors, or nail clippers
Hepatitis C can spread from person to person during sex, but the chances are low. People who have multiple sex partners, have HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, or who engage in rough or anal sex have a higher chance of getting hepatitis C. Talk with your doctor about your risk of getting hepatitis C through sex and about safe sex practices, such as using a latex or polyurethane condom to help prevent the spread of hepatitis C.
If you had hepatitis C in the past and your body fought off the infection or medicines cured the infection, you can get hepatitis C again. Follow the steps above, and talk with your doctor about how to protect yourself from another hepatitis C infection.
If you think you may have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus, see your doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage.
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Hepatitis C Can Lie Low For Years Until It Wreaks Havoc With Your Liver
THE SPECIALIST: DR. LEONA KIM-SCHLUGER ON HEPATITIS C
Kim-Schluger, the associate director of the Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute, is a hepatologist who oversees the running of the multiorgan transplant center and specializes in liver problems.
WHO’S AT RISK
Hepatitis C is a disease of the liver there are five hepatitis viruses, and this one has one of the highest rates of progression to chronic disease. “Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver that can lead to increased scar tissue and eventually to cirrhosis,” says Kim-Schluger. “About 4 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C 1.6% of the population.”
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease whose underlying virus was only isolated in 1989. “If you look the number new infections through the decades, a large percentage of patients were infected before 1992, when we developed a good test for hepatitis C,” says Kim-Schluger. “Infection rates dropped precipitously after that.” Because the blood supply wasn’t being reliably screened for hepatitis C until 1992, many americans were infected as the result of blood transfusions.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS:
For many patients, the diagnosis of hepatitis C comes without warning signs. “The tricky thing is that the majority of people are asymptomatic, or only have vague symptoms like feeling fatigued,” says Kim-Schluger. “So it is up to the doctor to ask about the risk factors and then screen people who are at risk.”
It’s Different Than Hepatitis A And B
Each form of hepatitis has its own specific virus that spreads and is treated differently. “Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver, or that the virus has an affinity for hurting the liver,” Reau says.
- Hepatitis A is an acute, short-term infection that often does not require treatment.
- Hepatitis B hides deep in the body and, like hepatitis C, is treated in a variety of ways, from antiviral medications to liver transplants.
“The viruses are different, but all of them should be taken very seriously since they can lead to significant liver disease and even death,” she adds.
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Can You Die From Hepatitis C
Complications from untreated hepatitis C, including cirrhosis and liver cancer, can be fatal, though HCV itself is rarely fatal.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , people who develop cirrhosis from HCV have a
more than half of people with an HCV infection will develop chronic hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis C is long term and can lead to permanent cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Chronic hepatitis C usually has no symptoms. People with chronic hepatitis C may not even know they have it. But once symptoms appear, it means that damage to the liver has already begun.
Other Risks Can Include:
- Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another persons blood, such as razors, toothbrushes or nail clippers
- Inoculation practices involving multiple use needles or immunization air guns
- Exposure of broken skin to HCV infected blood
- HIV infected persons
People with current or past risk behaviors should consider HCV testing and consult with a physician. HCV testing is currently not available at most public health clinics in Missouri. For information about HCV testing that is available, call the HCV Program Coordinator at 573-751-6439.
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I Found Out I Have Hepatitis C And Have Had It For Over 40 Years
OPINION: “Your results are positive. You have Hepatitis C,” my doctor said.
She then told me other medical stuff on that phone call but by then I’d gone straight to gobsmacked. A fairly reasonable “who me?” reaction had set in.
Shock, awe and the awareness that this was the disease that had taken out my rock and roll idols like David Bowie and Lou Reed.
At least 37 years ago in a vast chemical diet I had been at times a junkie. Not devout and committed like so many of my now dead friends, but a junkie all the same.
There was no needle exchange scheme then. You shot what you got with what you could get. Lots of sharing, cooking dirty needles over candle flames for the fussy and lots of cross infection.
Prime infection risk for the hepatitis family A,B and C and then not too much later for HIV/AIDS.
Trouble is you don’t have to have been much of an anything to get Hep C. Injecting once will do just fine, as will unsafe body piercings, snorting drugs, tattoos or sex that involves some blood. Even that “safe” ear piercing will do. Blood transfusions have also figured. This club is hyper promiscuous.
One of the upsides of having been a chemical pig was that I was done by 28.The doctor who helped me detox said that basically I had pushed it all so far there weren’t a whole lot of benchmarks to work off for how recovery would go.
Which came back positive.
Adults Living With Hepatitis B
If you test positive for the hepatitis B virus for longer than 6 months, this indicates that you have a chronic hepatitis B infection.
All patients with chronic hepatitis B infections, including children and adults, should be monitored regularly since they are at increased risk for developing cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer.
You should make an appointment with a hepatologist or gastroenterologist familiar with hepatitis B. This specialist will order blood tests and possibly a liver ultrasound to evaluate your hepatitis B status and the health of your liver. Your doctor will probably want to see you at least once or twice a year to monitor your hepatitis B and determine if you would benefit from treatment.
Not everyone who tests positive for hepatitis B will require medication. Depending on your test results, you and your doctor might decide to wait and monitor your condition. If your test results indicate that you would be a good candidate for treatment, then your doctor will discuss the current treatment options with you. Whether you start treatment or not, your doctor will want to see you every six months, or at minimum once every year.
Before you start any treatment, make sure you research each treatment option, and ask your doctor to thoroughly explain each option, so that you are well informed. It also might be a good idea to get a second opinion from another doctor before starting any treatment, because more information is always better!
Also Check: What Is Hepatitis B Infection
Testing For Hepatitis C
To diagnose a hepatitis C infection, doctors use a hepatitis C antibody test, which is a blood test. The test must have the approval of the Food and Drug Administration .
The hepatitis C antibody can show if a persons body has made any antibodies to HCV. If they have, this indicates that they have had the infection at some point in their lives.
Some people have the infection at some time, but their immune system eliminates the virus after a few months. In others, the body is unable to fight off the virus, leading to chronic hepatitis C infection. Many people will not experience any symptoms until the disease has progressed significantly.
A non-reactive or negative test result will generally indicate that a person does not have HCV. However, if the person has the test during the window period, they could receive inaccurate results.
If the person knows when exposure occurred, a doctor may recommend waiting a few weeks before repeating the test.
A reactive or positive result tells a doctor that the person has had an HCV infection at some point in their lives. The result indicates that their body has created antibodies to fight the virus.
However, this does not mean that a person still has active HCV. Even if their immune system has eliminated the virus, they will still have the antibodies.
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.
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When Should You Call Your Doctor
or other emergency services immediately if you have hepatitis C and you:
- Feel extremely confused or are having hallucinations.
- Are bleeding from the rectum or are vomiting blood.
- You think you may have been infected with hepatitis C.
- You have risk factors for hepatitis C, such as IV drug use.
- You have symptoms of hepatitis C and you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis C.
How Can I Prevent Passing On The Virus To Others
If you have a current hepatitis C infection you should:
- Not share any injecting equipment such as needles, syringes, etc.
- Not donate blood or carry a donor card.
- Not share razors, toothbrushes or anything else that may possibly be contaminated with blood.
- Use condoms when having sex. The risk of passing on HCV during sex is small but risk is reduced even further by using condoms.
- Advise anybody with whom you have had sex or shared needles to have tests as well, to check they do not have HCV.
There is currently no vaccine available to protect against hepatitis C.
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How Do You Get Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact.
Some ways the infection can be spread include:
- sharing unsterilised needles particularly needles used to inject recreational drugs
- sharing razors or toothbrushes
- from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby
- through unprotected sex although this is very rare
In the UK, most hepatitis C infections happen in people who inject drugs or have injected them in the past.
It’s estimated around half of those who inject drugs have been infected with the virus.
Treatment If The Condition Gets Worse
Severe liver damage caused by chronic hepatitis C usually takes 20 or more years to develop.
If your hepatitis C continues to get worse, it can cause your liver to stop working, a condition called end-stage liver failure. In this case, a liver transplant may be the only way to extend your life. But if you are drinking alcohol, are sharing needles to inject drugs, or have severe depression or certain other mental illnesses, liver transplant may not be an option.
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Newly Diagnosed With Hepatitis B How Did I Get This Learning The Hbv Transmission Basics
If you have just been diagnosed with hepatitis B virus then you need to understand how HBV is transmitted. This is important whether you have an acute or chronic infection. You must understand you are infectious and can transmit the virus to others.
How is hepatitis B transmitted? Hepatitis B is transmitted through direct contact with infected blood. This can happen through direct blood-to-blood contact, unprotected sex, unsterile needles, unsterile medical or dental equipment, and from a HBV infected mother to her baby at birth. For kids, pediatric experts report that the fluid that oozes from cuts and open sores is also highly infectious, so keep those open cuts covered. HBV can also be transmitted inadvertently by the sharing of personal items such as razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, body jewelry and other personal items that have small amounts of blood on them.
If you do, or have participated in high-risk activities at some point in your life, you are also at greater risk. This is not a time to judge or be judged.