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Hepatitis C is often referred to as the silent killer, as its symptoms may  go unnoticed. It is also one of the leading causes of liver transplants in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that 70-85% of those infected chronically with the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) could develop long term illness, and death. The CDC noted that many infected with HCV are not aware of any infection, and that there is currently no vaccine to prevent infections. They went on to say that there are specific types of behaviors that you can avoid to prevent the spread of Hepatitis C. Understanding how the virus is transmitted is of paramount importance, if you want to prevent infection. Here’s what you need to know about transmission and prevention.

How Hepatitis C is Transmitted

Hepatitis C enters your body via your bloodstream. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is usually transmitted via blood transfusions where blood products and blood has not been screened for HCV. The WHO also stipulated that the disease is spread via the sharing of injection needles. If you’re a medical professional, you may become infected if you are exposed to infected blood.

The WHO also noted that in rare cases, the virus can be spread via sexual contact and that an infected mother can pass the virus on to her child. The virus may also be spread via needles shared by drug users. Be advised that you cannot get infected by casually touching someone who is infected, and that you may share beverages and food with someone with HCV. The WHO has also stipulated that if you’re infected and breastfeeding, you need not worry about infecting your child with breast milk. The virus can also be spread via piercing and tattoos.

How to Prevent HCV Infections.

Be sure to practice safe sex with someone who has HCV. If you opt for a tattoo or a piercing, it’s always advisable to seek the services of a licensed piercing or tattoo artist. Always ensure that the tattoo artist uses an unused needed that can be disposed. The ink well used should also be unused. You could do some research on the reputation of the tattoo parlor first to decipher if they operate in sanitary conditions.

Seeing the virus is shared via blood, be careful when sharing your personal hygiene products. It only takes a small amount of blood for you to become infected, so never take chances. For instance, you may have bleeding gums and innocently share a toothbrush with someone who is infected. Try not to share razors or scissors with anyone. Even a pair of tweezers can transmit infected blood.

Take extra precaution when handling needles if you work in the healthcare industry. Always ensure that medical equipment is sterilized thoroughly. Be sure to never share needles, as HCV infections are high for drug users who share needles. Be advised that it’s not only needles that can become infected during drug use. The snorting of cocaine can also lead to a Hepatitis C virus infection. You may become infected via a straw used for snorting cocaine if one of the users has blood in his or her nose.

Note that even though the Hepatitis C virus is not found in breast milk, a mother may infect her child if she has cracked nipples that are prone to bleeding. If this has happened to you and you have HCV, you should stop breastfeeding until the cracks have healed. You should also get tested if you’ve had a blood transfusion prior to 1992.

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