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You can get hepatitis C if blood containing the hepatitis C virus enters your bloodstream. There are several ways this can occur.
Contact With Dirty Needles
Needles contaminated with the hepatitis C virus can spread hepatitis C. You could get hepatitis C from a contaminated needle in the following ways:
- Sharing needles when injecting narcotics.
- Receiving a needlestick injury while working in health care.
- Being pierced or tattooed with an unsterilized needle.
Through Some Medical Treatments
Some medical treatments involve the sharing of blood. Today, thorough screening virtually eliminates the risk of getting hepatitis C during a medical procedure. However, if you had a procedure before these measures were introduced, you could have contracted hepatitis C. You could get hepatitis C if you:
- Received clotting factor concentrates before 1987.
- Received a blood transfusion before 1992.
- Received an organ transplant before 1992.
Dialysis centers must follow strict safety protocols to prevent contamination. However, if they do not follow the right procedures, there is a chance of contracting hepatitis C during hemodialysis. This is very rare, but health practitioners recommend regular hepatitis C tests for all dialysis patients.
Before or After Birth
Expectant mothers with hepatitis C can pass the virus on to their babies. This can occur in the womb, during birth, or after birth. While the virus isn’t transmitted through breast milk, babies can get hepatitis C by drinking from mothers with cracked, bleeding nipples. Expectant mothers should be open about the virus as their health practitioner can help them reduce the risks of passing the virus on.
During Sexual Contact
Hepatitis C can be spread during sex or foreplay, although this is far less common than the factors above. The risks are increased if blood is involved, such as in the following circumstances:
- During periods.
- If the vagina or anus tears during sex.
- If you or your partner have any genital sores.
Using condoms even if you’re on birth control, especially if you’re unsure of your partner’s status, will help prevent transmission of the virus.
Activities That Don’t Spread Hepatitis C
There’s no need to worry about most contact with people with hepatitis C. You won’t get the virus from the following activities:
- Hugging or kissing a person with hepatitis C.
- Sharing their eating utensils, food, or beverages.
- Being around a person with hepatitis C who coughs or sneezes.
- Swimming or sharing a hot tub with a person with hepatitis C.