Who's at Risk for Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is spread primarily by contact with blood and blood products. Blood transfusions and the sharing of used needles and syringes have been the main causes of the spread of HCV in the United States. With the introduction in 1991 of routine blood screening for HCV antibody and improvements in the test in mid-1992, transfusion-related hepatitis C has virtually disappeared. At present, injection drug use is the most common risk factor for contracting the disease. However, there are patients who get hepatitis C without any known exposure to blood or to drug use.
Those individuals most at risk for hepatitis C infection are:
- People who had blood transfusions, blood products, or organ donations before June, 1992, when sensitive tests for HCV were introduced for blood screening.
- Health care workers who suffer needle-stick accidents.
- Injection drug users, including those who may have used drugs once many years ago.
- Infants born to HCV-infected mothers.
Other groups who appear to be at slightly increased risk for hepatitis C are:
- People with high-risk sexual behavior, multiple partners, and sexually transmitted diseases.
- People who snort cocaine using shared equipment.
- People who have shared toothbrushes, razors and other personal items with a family member that is HCV-infected.