Hepatitis C Transmission and Risks
Hepatitis C (HCV) is transmitted when the blood of an infected person passes into the blood of an uninfected person. Hep C is most easily spread through direct blood-to-blood contact, such as:
- Sharing needles and other equipment (paraphernalia) used to inject drugs. Injection drug users (IDUs) who share needles, syringes, and paraphernalia associated with it are at the highest risk of HCV.
- Blood transfusions and organ transplants before July 1992. Widespread screening of the blood supply in the United States began in 1992.
- Sexual contact with someone who has HCV. The risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C through unprotected sexual intercourse is low-but it is still possible. HCV sexual transmission risk is higher among those who are HIV-positive and in men who have sex with men (MSM). Sex with multiple partners, having a sexually transmitted disease, and rough sex may increase the risk of transmitting HCV sexually.
- Having an HCV-positive mother. Women who are infected with hepatitis C have a 6 percent chance of passing the virus along to their babies during pregnancy or delivery. The risk increases if the woman has HIV, hepatitis B or a high HCV viral load (the amount of HCV in a measurement of blood). The HCV transmission risk is doubled or tripled in women with HIV. It is unlikely that HCV can be transmitted through breast-feeding or breast milk.
Three out of four people with chronic HCV were born from 1945 through 1965. Baby boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than adults born in other years are. The CDC recommends that people born in those years get a one-time blood test for hepatitis C.
You may be at risk for hepatitis C and should contact your health care provider for a blood test if you:
- Were born from 1945 through 1965, regardless of any other HCV-related risk factors
- Were notified that you received blood or an organ from a donor who later tested positive for hepatitis C
- Have ever injected illegal drugs, even if you experimented a few times many years ago
- Received a blood transfusion or solid-organ transplant before 1992
- Received a blood product for clotting problems before 1987
- Have HIV
- Have ever been on long-term kidney dialysis
- Have evidence of liver disease (e.g., persistently abnormal liver function tests)
- Have an HCV-positive mother
- Have been exposed to HCV through your occupation (Note: The risk to health workers of acquiring HCV following a needlestick injury is quite low, averaging 1.8 percent)
Other situations where the risk is uncertain, but you may be at risk for HCV if you:
- Have ever gotten a tattoo or piercing in a non-professional setting where equipment such as ink, inkwells or needles were used and potentially unsterilized
- Have had multiple sexual partners or sexually transmitted diseases
- Have ever inhaled cocaine or shared other non-injecting drugs
HCV is not transmitted by casual contact such as coughing, kissing, sneezing, or sharing food, beverages or utensils.
Depression and Hepatitis C
In the language of clinical psychology, depression is a syndrome: a cluster of emotional, physicalRead More
The liver is the largest organ inside the human body. Weighing around three pounds, itRead More