What Causes Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is primarily transmitted through contact with infected blood. Here are the main ways the virus is transmitted:

  1. Injection drug use: Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug paraphernalia with an infected person is the most common mode of transmission for hepatitis C.
  2. Blood transfusions and organ transplants: Before widespread screening of blood and organ donations in the 1990s, hepatitis C could be transmitted through infected blood or organs. However, with improved screening techniques, the risk of transmission through these routes is now extremely low.
  3. Healthcare settings: In some cases, hepatitis C can be transmitted through unsafe medical practices, such as the reuse or inadequate sterilization of medical equipment, especially in countries with limited resources.
  4. Mother-to-child transmission: Although relatively rare, a pregnant woman with hepatitis C can pass the infection to her baby during childbirth. The risk of transmission is generally low, around 5%.
  5. Unprotected sexual contact: Although the risk is relatively low, hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual activity, particularly in cases of unprotected sex with an infected partner. The risk increases when there are other factors present, such as concurrent sexually transmitted infections or high-risk sexual behaviors.
  6. Occupational exposure: Healthcare workers may be at a higher risk of contracting hepatitis C if they come into contact with infected blood through needlestick injuries or other accidents.

It’s important to note that hepatitis C is not transmitted through casual contact, such as hugging, kissing, or sharing food or drinks with an infected person. It is primarily a bloodborne virus.

If you suspect that you have been exposed to hepatitis C or have concerns about your risk, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional. They can perform appropriate testing and provide guidance on prevention, management, and available treatment options.