How Hepatitis C Is Transmitted?

ID-10036541Hepatitis C transmission in developed/industrialized world is mainly by IV (intravenous) drug abuse, whereas in developing countries it is unsafe medical practices such as transfusion of untested (inadequately tested) blood and other unsafe medical procedures. In approximately 20% of the cases, the actual cause of hepatitis C transmission in not known.

Modes of hepatitis C transmission includes

  • Sharing of needles by intravenous drug abusers
  • Healthcare related transmissions such as due to blood transfusion, organ transplantation
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Sharing of certain personal items
  • Vertical transmission from pregnant mother to fetus
  • Body modifications such as tattooing and piercing

Intravenous drug use and Hepatitis C transmission:

This is the commonest mode of transmission of Hepatitis C infection in most developed nations. Hepatitis C infection is present in more than 60% (in some countries more than 80%) of intravenous drug users. It is estimated that not less than 10 million intravenous drug users worldwide are infected with Hepatitis C virus.

Healthcare exposure and Hepatitis C transmission:

Healthcare exposure is responsible for majority of Hepatitis C infections in developing countries. Blood transfusion, organ transplantation and other medical procedures involve high risk of transmission of Hepatitis C infection. The only solution to minimize the risk is to introduce universal screening of donated blood and donated organs and following of strict sterilization methods in medical procedures.

Sharing of personal items and Hepatitis C transmission:

Sharing of certain personal items such as razors, toothbrush, equipment used for manicuring or pedicuring can transmit hepatitis C infection. By sharing these personal items, there may be exchange of blood or fluid, which may transmit the infection.

Body modifications and Hepatitis C transmission:

Piercing of certain body parts, tattooing etc. without proper sterilization of instruments or equipments used for these purpose can transmit Hepatitis C infection. To reduce risk of Hepatitis C infection, tattooing and body piercing should always be done from a licensed practitioner, which rarely, if ever cause transmission of Hepatitis C infection, because they use proper sterilization procedures.

Sexual intercourse and Hepatitis C transmission:

Whether sexual intercourse can transmit Hepatitis C infection is controversial, although, there is clear association of high risk sexual activity and Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C transmission from pregnant mother to fetus:

Transmission of hepatitis C is less than 10% among pregnant mothers with hepatitis C to their fetus. At what stage of pregnancy transmission occurs is not clear. Prolonged labor can increase risk of transmission. Breastfeeding is not associated with transmission of hepatitis C infection to baby.

“Image courtesy of piyaphantawong /”.

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