Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
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
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).
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
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
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
AASLD/IDSA/IAS–USA. Recommendations for testing, managing, and treating hepatitis C.
AASLD practice guidelines December 2014, accessed 2/11/2015.