How do you get it?

Hepatitis C is a virus that is transmitted (passed on) through contact with the blood of an infected person. This is commonly referred to as blood to blood contact which means you can get Hepatitis C when infected blood finds its way into your bloodstream and the virus is able to survive and multiply to establish an infection. In terms of an average healthy lifestyle, the opportunities for that to happen are quite rare. In very rare cases it may also be passed on through infected bodily fluids.

Risk factors, who is at risk of Hepatitis C?

You should consider a test for Hepatitis C if you have ever been at risk of exposure to the virus. This includes anyone who:

  • Has ever injected or snorted drugs in the past (including anabolic steroids) using shared equipment, however long ago, even if this was only once or twice
  • Has unexplained persistently high ALT Levels
  • Has had a blood transfusion in the UK before September 1991
  • Has received any blood products before 1987 in Scotland (before 1986 in England)
  • Has been the recipient of an organ/tissue transplant in the UK before 1982
  • Has ever received medical or dental treatment in countries where infection control may be poor
  • Is the child of a mother with Hepatitis C
  • Is a regular sexual partner/household contact of someone with Hepatitis C
  • Has been accidentally exposed to blood where there is a risk of transmission of Hepatitis C (eg. healthcare worker with a needlestick injury)
  • Has had tattoos, piercings, acupuncture or electrolysis where infection control procedures are poor
  • Is infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
  • Is a migrant from a country with a medium or high prevalence of Hepatitis C

The Scottish Intercollegiate Network (SIGN) guideline entitled Management of Hepatitis C provides further details of who should be offered or recommended a test for Hepatitis C.

See also

Hepatitis C Trust: Risk Factors

British Liver Trust: Prevention

Hepatitis C Scotland

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