Nov 20, 2000
About 5 years ago I had sex with someone and just recently found out that he is dying from Hep C. Is that contagious? And how long does it take to know if you have it?
Response from Dr. Pavia
Hep C is contagious, and is transmitted through blood transfusions, needle sharing and sex. Interestingly, Hep C seems not to be efficiently transmitted by sex among men, and may be more easily transmitted heterosexually. We do not understand how this works. In any event, the risk of getting infected from a single encounter is low, but not zero. In contrast, needle sharing is very efficient, and people can get infected who have shot up a single time. There is some evidence that sharing straws (or $100 bills) to snort coke may spread infection.
Testing is fairly straightforward. If it has been more than 6 months (or in certain circumstances perhaps 1 year), as in your case, a simple blood test looking for Hep C antibody is very reliable. Talk to your doctor and get tested. Even if you are infected, only about 1 in 5 persons with Hep C ends up with very serious liver disease. Treatment is available, and you can read more about it on the Hepatitis forum.
Andrew T. Pavia, M.D.
HIV+ Reported to Dentist by Medical HMO
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