Hepatitis C (cont.)

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Can hepatitis C be prevented?

Transmission of hepatitis C can be prevented in several ways.

  • Prevention programs have been aimed at avoiding needle sharing among drug addicts. Needle exchange programs and educational interventions have reduced transmission of hepatitis C infection. However, the population of drug addicts is a difficult population to reach, and rates of hepatitis C remain high among addicts (30% of younger users).
  • Among healthcare workers, safe needle-usage techniques have been developed to reduce accidental needle-sticks. Newer syringes have self-capping needle systems that avoid the need to manually replace a cap after drawing blood and reduce the risk of needle-sticks.
  • There is no clear way to prevent transmission of hepatitis C from mother to child.
  • Persons with multiple sexual partners should use barrier precautions such as condoms to limit the risk of hepatitis C as well as other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
  • If one partner is infected, monogamous couples should consider the low risk of transmission of hepatitis C infection when deciding whether to use condoms during intercourse. Some couples may decide to use them and some may not.
  • Screening tests for blood products have almost eliminated the risk of transmission of hepatitis C infection through transfusion, now estimated by the CDC to be less than one in two million transfused blood products.
  • People with hepatitis C infection should not share razors or toothbrushes with others because of the possibility that these items may be contaminated with blood.
  • People who want to get a body piercing(s) or tattoo(s) are encouraged to:
    • do so only at licensed piercing and tattoo shops (facilities), and
    • assure the body piercing or tattoo shop uses infection-control practices.
  • It is critical that physicians and clinics follow manufacturer's directions for sterilizing/cleaning instruments and that disposable instruments and disposable instruments be discarded properly.

It is important to realize that hepatitis C is not spread by casual contact. Thus, shaking hands, kissing, and hugging are not behaviors that increase the risk of transmission. There is no need to use special isolation procedures when dealing with infected patients.

What is the current research and what is in the future for hepatitis C?

As our knowledge of hepatitis C increases, more and more patients are being diagnosed with chronic infection. Current research includes diagnosis, natural history, treatment, and vaccine development.

  • Diagnosis: More accurate tests are being developed to detect even smaller amounts of the virus.
  • Natural history: There is much we do not know about the natural history of chronic hepatitis C. Why do some people clear the virus spontaneously? What makes some people develop cirrhosis when others appear to have little liver damage? What predicts response to treatment or re-treatment?
  • Treatment: New medications are being developed in the hopes of improving response rates even further. In addition, newer oral medications not requiring interferon are in early stages of testing that have SVRs upwards of 95%.
  • Vaccine development: Scientists have not been able to develop an effective vaccine against hepatitis C. This is partly due to the ability of hepatitis C to change (mutate) and evade the body's immune responses. Attempts to develop a vaccine, however, are continuing.


AASLD/IDSA/IAS–USA. Recommendations for testing, managing, and treating hepatitis C. <http://www.hcvguidelines.org>

AASLD practice guidelines December 2014, accessed 2/11/2015.

CDC Hepatitis Fact sheet; accessed 2/11/15.>t;http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/c/cfaq.htm<

Wilkins T, Malcolm JK, Raina D, Schade RR. Hepatitis C: diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Jun 1;81(11):1351-7.

WHO. Hepatitis C fact sheet; accessed 2/11/15. >http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs164/en/< , accessed 2/11/2015.

Previously contributing authors: Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS and MACP and Suresha Rajaguru, MD.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/26/2015

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