risks of hepatitis cHepatitis C is a liver infection caused by a virus of the same name. The infection is referred to in two different ways, with a new infection being referred to as acute hepatitis C and a long-term infection being called chronic hepatitis C. There is no known vaccine for hepatitis C.

Risks of Hepatitis C

More than half of the people who are diagnosed with acute hepatitis C eventually develop chronic hepatitis C. While it is possible for someone with hepatitis C to get better without any treatment, the chances of the virus clearing out without any medical assistance is under 50%. Chronic hepatitis C can lead to a variety of long-term health problems, mainly for the liver. Some of these problems include liver damage or failure, liver cancer, or cirrhosis. 15,713 deaths related to hepatitis C were reported to the CDC in 2018, but this number is believed to be underestimated.

Who is Likely to Get Hepatitis C?

The CDC estimates that 2.4 million people in the United States are living with chronic hepatitis C, and in 2018 they estimated around 50,300 new cases of acute hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is spread when the blood from an infected person comes in contact with a different person. Here are some ways that could happen:

  • Sharing needles is the most common way to get infected with hepatitis C. Other things that can spread hepatitis C when shared are toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers and glucose monitors.
  • An estimated 6% of infants born to an infected mother will get hepatitis C.
  • Getting a tattoo or a piercing in an unregulated facility that lacks sterile instruments puts you at risk of hepatitis C.
  • If a healthcare professional does not follow the proper steps to prevent infection, they can either get infected or infect another with hepatitis C, though these cases are uncommon.
  • Hepatitis C can spread through sex, though it is rare for it to do so. It is mostly reported in men who have sex with other men.
  • Hepatitis C can be spread by blood transfusions or organ transplants, but the risk of this happening has been extremely low since 1992 when widespread screening of the blood supply was put in place.

With these being the ways to spread hepatitis C, the most likely ones to get it are those who have used injection drugs in the past, those with HIV, children of mothers with hepatitis C, or those who received transfusions or transplants especially before 1992.

How Can I Prevent Getting Hepatitis C?

There is no known vaccine for hepatitis C, and thus no way to fully prevent yourself from getting it. Your safest bet is to avoid doing things that increase your risk of getting hepatitis C. Avoid using injection drugs or sharing personal hygiene items with those you aren’t sure are safe, and make sure any tattoo facility you visit is regulated and sterile.

Contact Washington Health Institute for testing and diagnosis if you believe that you’ve been exposed to Hepatitis C or if you live at high risks of Hepatitis C. With the proper care and management, we can help you live a long healthy life.