The CDC recommends hepatitis C testing for anyone in these categories.
You’ve probably heard too many happy hours take a toll on your liver, but excessive drinking isn’t the only thing that puts your liver at risk. The other real threat to the liver is the common (and often silent) hepatitis C virus.
The main culprit? Exposure to infected blood. “Most people today become infected by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs,” says Paul Knoepflmacher, MD, a clinical instructor of medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital.
But not using drugs doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Hepatitis C was spread decades ago through blood transfusions and organ transplants, prior to the start of stricter screening in 1992. Because of this, the CDC recommends getting tested for hepatitis C for all people born between 1945 and 1965 (i.e. “baby boomers”). People in this age group are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults. Learn more about why baby boomers are prone to hepatitis C here.
These are the risk factors for hepatitis C, according to the CDC.
Injection drug users (including former users)
Recipients of blood transfusions or organs before July 1992
Patients with long-term hemodialysis
Those who work with needles (like healthcare workers)
People who are HIV-positive
Infants of mothers with hepatitis C
While you can’t spread hep C through kissing, sneezing, or sharing forks, you could possibly spread the virus by sharing items that contain someone’s blood, such as a razor or toothbrush. It’s also possible to spread hepatitis C through sexual contact with an infected person, but this form of transmission is less common.
If you are considered at risk for hepatitis C, learn more about symptoms of hepatitis C and lifestyle habits to protect your liver. And most importantly, talk to your doctor about getting tested for hepatitis C.
“Hepatitis C can be serious,” says Dr. Knoepflmacher, “but now we have great treatments that can cure the virus.”
Dr. Knoepflmacher is a clinical instructor of medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he also maintains a private practice.
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Hepatitis C is a liver disease
that's caused by a virus.
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It can linger silently in your body for
years or decades and
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can ultimately cause serious
damage to your liver.
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It's usually spread when you're exposed to
blood from someone who has hepatitis C.
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Most people today become
infected by sharing needles or
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other equipment to inject drugs.
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But years ago, hepatitis C was also
spread through blood transfusion and
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But in 1992, we began widespread
screening of the blood supply.
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So that's no longer an issue.
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The most common ways people get infected
with hepatitis C are with sharing needles,
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other equipment to inject drugs.
00:00:45,558 --> 00:00:48,638
Getting stuck by a needle
in a healthcare setting and
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being born to a mother
who has hepatitis C.
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Having HIV is also a risk factor for
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You can also get hepatitis C from sharing
items that could have come into contact
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with someone else's blood, like razors or
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toothbrushes or from having sexual
contact with someone with hepatitis C.
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But you should know getting infected
these ways is much less common.
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It's also important to know
how hepatitis C is not spread.
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There's no proof you can get it through
casual contact like kissing or hugging,
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sneezing or coughing, or sharing utensils.
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And it's not spread through food or water.
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One of the most important and
poorly understood risk factors for
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hepatitis C is your age.
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people born between 1945 and 1965,
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are five times more likely to have
hepatitis C than other adults.
00:01:34,229 --> 00:01:37,552
Even if you have no other risk factors for
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the CDC recommends everyone born during
this time span get tested to be sure.
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Baby Boomers grew up before the hepatitis
C virus was identified in 1989.
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So its likely that Boomers who have it
were infected during medical procedures
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that occurred before we
had better screening.
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Hepatitis C can be serious, but
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now we have great treatments
that can cure the virus.
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So if you have any concerns whatsoever,
ask your doctor about getting tested so
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you can learn your status and take action.
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ABCs of hepatitis. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016. (Accessed on October 11, 2017 at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/resources/professionals/pdfs/abctable.pdf.)
Hepatitis C FAQs for the public. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016. (Accessed on October 11, 2017 at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/cfaq.htm.)