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Are You at Risk for Hepatitis C?

10 Questions You Need To Ask Yourself


Updated February 04, 2009

Are You at Risk for Hepatitis C?

Do you have something like this? If so, you might be at risk for hepatitis C.

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Anyone can get hepatitis C. Young, old; gay, straight; rich, poor; healthy, sick -- ultimately, we're all at-risk for infection because hepatitis C is caused by a virus that only needs a liver to call home. However, it's a virus spread by direct contact with infected blood, so in reality, only certain activities will increase your risk of infection. Here are 10 questions you should answer to see if you're at increased risk of infection. If you can answer "yes" to any of these, you should talk with your doctor or nurse about your risk of exposure and possibly take a blood test.
  • Have you ever used injected drugs? If you have ever injected drugs, even just one time, this counts as a potential exposure. Even if you stopped using years ago, you could still be infected and not know it. Of course to be exposed this way you would have used dirty needles or works, but since most cases of hepatitis C in the United States spread this way, it's safest to assume an exposure with any use of injected drugs.
  • Are you HIV positive?
  • Have you received donated blood, blood products or organs? If you received any of these before 1992, you could have an exposure to hepatitis C because these products weren't screened for the virus. Once the virus was identified, donated blood, organs and blood products were screened. Now exposures to hepatitis C this way are very rare.
  • Have you received a blood product made before 1987 for clotting problems?
  • Are you a current or past dialysis patient? Hemodialysis is a treatment for people with certain kidney problems. Though dialysis is a safe and sterile procedure, statistically, dialysis patients are at increased risk for exposure.
  • Do you have tattoos or body piercings? If you're not certain they were made with sterile instruments, then you could have been exposed. If you want a tattoo or piercing, your best protection is to use a licensed artist from a reputable parlor.
  • Have you had a needlestick accident? Though this mostly affects health care workers, needlestick injuries are a potential source of exposure. Of course any direct contact from infected blood to your blood is a possible exposure.
  • Were you born to a mother infected with the hepatitis C virus? This is known as vertical transmission and is a common way people are infected, especially in some parts of the world.
  • Have you had sex with someone who has or had hepatitis C? Having sex is, generally, a low-risk way to be exposed to hepatitis C. However, your risk increases if you come into direct contact with infected blood while having sex.
  • Do you share personal care items? This is a low-risk way of being exposed, but it is possible to get infected from using a razor or toothbrush of someone with hepatitis C. That's because, though these items may have small amounts of infected blood on them, they can have enough to cause infection.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. July 10, 2008. Hepatitis C.

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