People who are HIV infected should be tested for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, sometimes annually depending on current risk factors.
Hepatitis C (HCV) virus is spread when infected blood from one per- son enters the body of another. Sharing needles and drug parapherna- lia while injecting drugs is the most common risk factor. People who received a blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992, blood- clotting products prior to 1987, or long-term hemodialysis may also be at risk. Healthcare workers exposed to accidental needle sticks and children born to hepatitis C positive mothers can also become infect- ed. Sexual transmission of hepatitis C does occur, but it is not easily spread in this manner. The risk of sexual transmission increases with multiple sex partners and other sexually transmitted diseases. The risk of sexual transmission is also higher in the MSM population than in heterosexuals. Unlike HIV, HCV may not be passed from infected mother to infant through breastfeeding, unless nipples are cracked and bleeding.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C?
Many persons with hepatitis C have no symptoms at all for decades, but some will notice mild to severe symptoms such as: “flu-like” symptoms, abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weight loss, light stools and dark urine, and some- times yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
Why should I be tested for Hepatitis C?
Early diagnosis is important to check for liver damage and provide treatment if indicated. Treatment is most effective before severe liver damage has occurred. You can also learn how to protect your liver from further harm and how to prevent the spread of HCV to other people. If you think you may have been exposed to the virus or have signs or symptoms of liver disease such as an abnormal liver enzyme test, you should talk to your doctor about getting tested.
How can I protect myself from getting Hepatitis C?
Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after blood exposure. Wash blood-contaminated surfaces with soap and water and then disinfect with a bleach and water solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water). Healthcare professionals should always follow rou- tine barrier precautions and should safely handle needles and other sharps. Injection drug users should make sure that needles, syringes and works are sterile and never shared. Never draw drugs out of a supply that has been mixed in a shared and possibly contaminated container. Never share a straw or bill when snorting drugs. When getting a tattoo or body piercing, make sure the artist uses sterile needles, tools and ink and follows good health practices. Practice safer sex by using latex condoms every time. Do not share personal items that may have your blood on them such as razors, nail files and toothbrushes.