Preventing Hepatitis C: Is There a Vaccine?
Up to 85 percent of people with hepatitis C will end up with a chronic form of the infection, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). And among those with a chronic infection, around 75 percent will eventually have liver disease. That’s why preventing hepatitis C is so important.
Click through the slideshow to learn how to prevent hepatitis C and what activities you should avoid.
Can I Be Vaccinated Against Hep C?
There is currently no vaccine that can help protect you from getting hepatitis C. But there are vaccines for other hepatitis viruses, including hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
Your doctor may suggest that you get vaccinated against hep A and hep B if you have hepatitis C. That’s because if you get hepatitis A or B, they can lead to further complications when treating hep C.
Preventing other forms of hepatitis is especially important if your liver has already been damaged.
What Not to Do
Though there’s no vaccine that will protect you specifically from hepatitis C, there are certain things you can do to protect yourself from getting or spreading the infection. And when it comes to protecting yourself and others from hepatitis C, what you don’t do can be as important as what you do.
Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood that is contaminated with the virus. It may be transmitted through sex with an infected person, or by sharing personal items contaminated with infectious blood, but these are less common. It is not spread through breast milk, food, or water. Neither is it spread by casual contact, such as hugging, kissing, or sharing food or drinks with an infected person.
In order to prevent its spread, it’s best to avoid activities that put you in contact with infected blood.
With Personal Care, Don’t Share
Razors, toothbrushes, and other personal care items can transfer hep C-infected blood from one person to another. Avoid using someone else’s items for personal hygiene.
Additionally, if you or someone else has a wound, make sure that it stays bandaged.
If you do have hepatitis C, make sure you:
- do not donate blood or semen
- do not be an organ or tissue donor
- tell doctors and other health providers about your infection when receiving care
Don’t Share Needles
Injected drugs can lead to hepatitis C infection if you share needles or other equipment, such as syringes, with an infected person.
According to the CDC, people who currently use illicit injected drugs or street drugs are most likely to spread Hep C.
Even if you only injected drugs once a long time ago, you are still at risk for hepatitis C if you shared a needle with someone else.
Use Caution with Tattooing
Licensed businesses that offer tattooing or body piercing are generally considered safe from hepatitis C. But getting a tattoo, piercing, or even acupuncture can lead to hep C infection if the equipment was not properly sterilized.
If you choose to get a tattoo or piercing, check that the facility has a valid permit or license. Request to see an acupuncture license from your practitioner if you try acupuncture as well.
Practice Safe Sex
Sexually transmitted hepatitis C is uncommon, but it is possible. Certain behaviors, including unsafe sex, can increase your risk if you do have sex with someone who has the virus.
Having more than one sexual partner puts you at greater risk than those who are monogamous. Also, people who have a sexually transmitted disease or HIV are more likely to additionally contract hepatitis C.
You can’t prevent hepatitis C through a vaccination, but you can lower your chances of becoming infected with the virus through preventive measures.
Don’t share personal care items that may transfer blood from one person to another. Never share needles or use illicit drugs. Be cautious about tattooing and practice safe sex.
These steps will help you stay healthy and avoid getting or giving hepatitis C.
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