Hepatitis C infection
Hepatitis C is mainly spread through blood-to-blood contact. Hepatitis C is not contagious via saliva and generally not transmitted sexually.
Infection via blood-to-blood contact
Hepatitis C is therefore a virus that is transmitted via the blood. You can catch it if your blood comes into direct contact with blood that is already infected with hepatitis C. The virus can survive in blood outside the body for a number of hours. There are various ways in which you can become infected with hepatitis C. It can, for example, be passed on:
- By receiving transfusions or treatment with medical products containing infected blood (before 1992 in the Netherlands or after 1992 in Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean Region, South America and Eastern Europe);
- By sharing contaminated equipment for injecting drugs;
- Through having unprotected sex with someone who has hepatitis C in which blood-to-blood contact occurs;
- During medical, surgical and dental procedures in which the instruments are reused or inadequately sterilised;
- By having piercings and tattoos or undergoing acupuncture with equipment that is not properly disinfected;
- From a careless manicure/pedicure (in which the skin is cut and bleeds) with non-sterile equipment (occurs very rarely);
- From a mother infected with hepatitis C to her baby (occurs very rarely).
The greatest risk of infection comes from contaminated needles
The greatest risk of infection with the hepatitis C virus comes from using contaminated needles when taking drugs. Prior to 1992, blood transfusions formed the largest risk of infection in the Netherlands. Until that year, blood given for transfusions was not screened for hepatitis C.
More about the transmission of hepatitis C
If you have any questions about how hepatitis C is transmitted, you should always talk to your doctor or nurse, or another caregiver. You do not have to face it on your own. There are also patients' associations and support organisations that can help you contact other people who have or have had the disease and provide assistance.
Preventing hepatitis C from spreading
Hepatitis C cannot be spread through normal social contact like holding hands, kissing and sneezing. It is therefore not possible to become infected with the virus by using someone else's glass, via saliva or insect bites. In addition, hepatitis C cannot be transmitted in a sauna or swimming pool, or by using the same toilet as someone who has the disease.
However, there are several things you should take into account to prevent hepatitis C from spreading:
- Do not share toothbrushes, razors, shavers or other items that could have blood on them;
- Only have safe sex; do not have unprotected sex in which blood-to-blood contact may occur;
- Never share needles or syringes.
Infected with the virus
If you think you are infected with the hepatitis C virus? Various symptoms can indicate a liver infection. Various tests can be carried out to determine whether you are infected with the virus.