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Hepatitis C query
Apr 15, 2007

Hi Doctor McGovern

I received a needlestick injury some time ago and was tested for Hepatitis C and also HIV, both of which came back as negative. However, during the window period I was quite worried and eventually developed OCD regarding exposure to contaminated blood. I have found that information seems to be the best weapon against this, so I was wondering if you could clear something up for me. I have eczema on my hands and am concerned mainly with contracting Hep C via this route. I am not quite so concerned about HIV as I know that the virus does not live long outside the body and there has to sufficient blood transfer, usually a visible amount. However, my doctor tells me that Hep C can live for several days on surfaces and furthermore such a small amount is required for transfer that it could even be an invisible amount of blood. If this is the case, that such tiny amounts can transfer the virus and that it lives so long, I would imagine that it would be quite easy to transfer tiny amounts from surface to surface in the environment, for example when using doors, handling everyday objects and so on. Clearly though, people are not contracting the disease so easily. Why is this? Is it because most people do not have open eczema on their hands and am I therefore at risk? I would be very grateful if you could help as I am unsure whether I am being irrational and can forget about it or whether I really am at more risk than most people due to the eczema on my hands. Thank you in advance, Adam

Response from Dr. McGovern

You have made a very logical conclusion that is correct. If hepatitis C was this easy to transmit, it would be occurring in most people. And that is simply not the case. Just because the virus may survive on surfaces doesn't mean that this is a means of transmission. Nor has hepatitis C been show to be transmitted primarily to people with eczema.



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