for Health Care Providers
Hepatitis C: Military-Related Blood Exposures, Risk Factors, VA Care
Veterans and organizations representing them have expressed considerable interest in the possible relationship between hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and immunization with jet injectors (air-gun injection) or other military-related blood exposures. Although there has never been a documented case of hepatitis C transmitted by a jet injector, it is biologically plausible.
Any veteran enrolled in the VA health care system who has concerns about hepatitis C infection, because of jet injectors or any other potential blood exposure during military service, is welcome and encouraged to request testing and evaluation for hepatitis C at his or her nearest VA hospital.
Risk Factors for Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is spread through blood. The risk factors for hepatitis C infection are blood-to-blood exposures, such as injection drug use, having received a blood transfusion, having a needlestick injury, and many more. VA recommends that all persons with any risk factor for exposure be tested for hepatitis C.
Aside from risk factors, it is also known that people born between 1945 and 1965 have a higher chance of being infected with hepatitis C than people born in other years. Based on the higher likelihood of infection in patients born during these years, VA recommends that all persons born between 1945 and 1965 also be tested for hepatitis C, regardless of whether a known risk factor exists.
Recommendations for Hepatitis C Screening
1. All persons born between 1945 and 1965
2. All persons with 1 or more of the following risk factors:
- Has ever used a needle to inject drugs, even if once and long ago
- Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
- Is a health care worker who had blood exposure to mucous membranes or non-intact skin, or via a needlestick injury
- Was on long-term kidney dialysis
- Was born to a mother who had hepatitis C at the time
- Is a Vietnam-era Veteran
- Had contact with HCV-infected blood to non-intact skin or to mucous membranes
- Has tattoos or body piercings
- Has ever snorted drugs and shared equipment
- Has liver disease or abnormal liver function test
- Has a history of alcohol abuse
- Has a history of hemophilia
- Has a sex partner with hepatitis C, or had one in the past
- Has had 10 or more lifetime sex partners
- Has HIV infection
- Had other potential blood-to-blood exposure, during military service or at another time
3. Any person who wishes to be tested.
Hepatitis C Care in VA
If a veteran does test positive for hepatitis C, VA has tremendous expertise to care for him or her. In fact, VA cares for more individuals with hepatitis C than any other health care system in the country. For hepatitis C-positive veterans who enroll in VA medical care, VA offers:
- Excellent patient education and professional education that both empowers the Veteran and enables his or her health care provider to stay current with the latest disease management information
- All medications that can help hepatitis C or its complications, via the VA formulary
- A multifaceted team approach to care, with different specialists working together to help patients
- Dedicated professionals who take advantage of VA continuing medical education on the latest approaches to hepatitis C care
- Patient education via brochures, support groups, education programs, and web-based resources that help patients be part of the care team
Much more information is available on this website. To find your local VA medical center, call the VA toll free at 1-800-827-1000 or visit the Web at www.va.gov/directory.