Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. It is spread only by direct contact with infected blood. This means that to be exposed to the hepatitis C virus, you have to somehow get blood infected with the virus in to your body. While this can happen in a number of different ways, here are six identified ways that it is possible to be exposed to hepatitis C.
1. Don't Do Intravenous Drugs
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If you use drugs, don't share needles or any equipment. If you use needles for medical care or intravenous drug use of any kind, always use sterile equipment, including "the works." Since intravenous drug use is associated with half of all new hepatitis C cases, not using dirty needles is the single best way to stop the spread of hepatitis C.
A needle exchange program may be available in your area. These programs offer ways to get sterile syringes and can be an effective resource to help stop the spread of hepatitis C. Also, many of these programs provide additional services, such as referrals to drug treatment centers, counseling and primary health care. For more information, check with your local department of public health.
2. Don't Share Toothbrushes
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Toothbrushes could be contaminated with blood. People with open sores in their mouths or bleeding gums (maybe after flossing) could easily get blood on their toothbrushes. While many people wouldn't dream of using someone else's toothbrush, some people have no problem with this! Make a rule for yourself: only use your toothbrush.
3. Don't Share Razors
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Sharing personal items, such as razors, toothbrushes and nail clippers, have a lower risk of spreading infection than sharing needles. But where there's blood, there's the possibility of spreading hepatitis C. If you shave like me, there's blood on your razor, so make sure you use your own. If you think someone else you don't know uses your razor, hide it!
4. Don't Share Nail Clippers
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This follows the same principle as the razor. It has the potential to infect, because it could easily come in to contact with blood. There is a small risk for nail clippers, unless you clip your nails like I do. If you're someone who likes to be extra careful, buy your own pair.
5. Use a Condom
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Generally speaking, one has a very low risk of getting hepatitis C during sex. The risks increase, however, when you have rough sex or have multiple sexual partners. Also, co-infection with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases also increases risk of infection. So do yourself a favor and wear a condom.
6. Use Licensed Tattoo and Piercing Studios
While getting tattoos and piercings is not necessarily a high-risk activity, it can be if done incorrectly. If the needles or equipment used on you were not properly disinfected and were also used on an infected person, you could be exposed to blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Make sure that the studio is licensed and that sterile needles are used for all body work.