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Viral Hepatitis

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FAQ: How is hepatitis C spread?

for Veterans and the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How is hepatitis C spread? Will my loved ones catch it from me?

It is unlikely that your family or friends will become infected with hepatitis C. Here are some ways the virus is transmitted:

  • Injecting street drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, even if it's only once. The needles and other drug "works" that are used to prepare or inject the drug may have had someone else's blood that contained HCV on them.
  • Receiving a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992 from a donor whose blood contained hepatitis C. (Before 1992, there was no blood test for hepatitis C.)
  • Being on a kidney machine (called kidney dialysis) for a long time. You may have shared supplies or equipment that had someone else's blood on them.
  • Being a health care worker with frequent contact with blood on the job, especially from accidental needlesticks.
  • Having a mother who had hepatitis C when she gave birth to you.
  • Sharing items such as razors, toothbrushes, and other personal health items that might have had blood on them.
  • Getting a tattoo with unsanitary instruments, as they might have someone else's blood on them.
  • Having unprotected sex with multiple partners. Although hepatitis C rarely is spread through sexual contact, it can happen.

The number one risk factor for infection and transmission is sharing needles for intravenous drug use. Most IV drug users become infected with HCV within one year of sharing needles.