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Hepatitis C – Transmission and Screening

Tuesday, April 02, 2013 10:48 AM
Tags: hepatitis c

Hepatitis C, a virus which can lead to chronic liver disease, is spread through contact of already infected blood.  Many individuals who are infected with the hepatitis C virus do not experience symptoms and are not aware of having the virus. 

Dhiren Shah, MD, a gastroenterologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem, shares some important information on transmission of hepatitis C and tips on minimizing your risk:

  • Do not come into contact with any non-sterile equipment where blood is involved. If you are getting a tattoo or body piercing, be sure to do so in a licensed facility. Additionally, DO NOT share toothbrushes or razors with anyone who has hepatitis C. Sexual transmission is an uncommon way of transmission; however, the risk increases in patients who have a history of a sexually transmitted disease, multiple sexual partners or men who have sex with men. 
  • Do not participate in the use of illegal intravenous drugs. The most common way that hepatitis C is passed to others is through sharing illegal drugs with used, contaminated needles. If you are a user, you should go to a facility where you can receive clean needles and DO NOT share needles with anyone.

Who should be screened for hepatitis C?

  1. Any person born between 1945 to 1965
  2. Anyone with elevated liver enzymes
  3. Any person who has ever used illegal intravenous drugs and/or any history of snorting cocaine
  4. HIV patients
  5. Children born to women who have hepatitis C
  6. Dialysis patients
  7. Anyone who had an organ transplant before 1992
  8. Anyone who received a blood transfusion before 1992

Is there a vaccine for hepatitis C?  

To date, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C; however, you should be screened for hepatitis A and B, and get vaccinated if you have not been previously exposed.  

What other questions do you have about hepatitis C?