May 17, 2001
How is hep. c contracted? Is it contagious? If so, how can you prevent getting it? What does hep. c do?
Response from Dr. Young
Hepatitis C is usually transmitted via innoculation with infected blood or bloody body fluids. It is therefore transmitted via injection drug use (sharing rigs or needles), or transfusion of contaminated blood (as happened prior to the testing of blood products for HCV). Sexual transmission is actually relatively rare, particularly relevant are studies of transmission among heterosexual couples who were sero-discordant (one partner positive, the other negative). Vertical transmission (mother to child) is very rare.
Hepatitis C causes liver infection and inflammation. The majority of infected persons establish a chronic infection, though about 1/3 of persons control the infection immunologically and are free of circulating virus. A significant proportion of those who are chronically infected have the risk of progressive liver disease and cirrhosis, though this process typically takes many years.
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