What Are the Risk Factors for Hepatitis C?

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Hepatitis C is a virus (HCV) that is transmitted through contaminated blood, primarily during intravenous drug use or when receiving infected blood transfusions. While anyone can contract HCV in Denton, Plano, and Wylie, TX, some people are at a higher risk than others.

Understanding the risk factors of hepatitis C can help individuals take precautions and get tested if needed. At Health Services of North Texas, our infectious disease case managers can provide testing, treatment, and education about hepatitis C.

Common hepatitis C symptoms

The initial symptoms of hepatitis C may not be noticeable at first, making it hard to diagnose. Some people experience mild fatigue, while others have no symptoms at all. However, those with long-term or chronic hepatitis C may have issues such as:

  • Pain in the right upper abdomen
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Rashes
  • Jaundice
  • Skin that bruises or bleeds easily
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cognitive issues

Who is at a higher risk for contracting hepatitis C?

As mentioned, anyone can get hepatitis C. However, some people are at a higher risk due to certain factors. These include:

  • Intravenous (IV) drug use: Sharing needles and other equipment used for injecting drugs greatly increases the risk of contracting HCV.
  • Blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992: Prior to this time, no screening was available for this infectious disease in donated blood or organs.
  • Occupational exposure to infected blood: Healthcare workers who come into contact with infected blood or accidental needle pricks have an increased risk.
  • HIV infection: Those who are co-infected with both HIV and HCV have a higher chance of developing chronic hepatitis C.
  • Birth from an infected mother: Babies born to mothers with HCV can get the virus, although this is not common.
  • Sharing personal care items: Items such as razors or toothbrushes that come into contact with infected blood can transmit the virus.

What precautions can be taken to prevent contracting hepatitis C?

There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but there are ways to reduce your risk in Denton and Collin Counties. These include:

  • Avoiding sharing needles or other equipment used for injecting drugs
  • Ensuring that healthcare facilities and providers practice safe injection practices
  • Using protection during sexual activity
  • Not sharing personal care items with others

Does hepatitis C spread through casual contact?

Some people are concerned about the risk of contracting hepatitis C symptoms through casual touching. However, it is important to note that HCV is primarily spread through blood-to-blood contact. This means that casual contact, such as hugging or kissing someone who has hepatitis C, does not pose a significant risk for transmission. We recommend practicing good hygiene and avoiding contact with blood from an infected individual to further reduce the already low risk of transmission.

Get tested and know your risk

Hepatitis C is a serious but treatable virus that can affect anyone. Understanding your personal risk factors and taking precautions can make all the difference in managing this virus.