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Cause

Hepatitis C is a liver disease that is caused by infection with the hepatitis C virus, a virus that lives in your liver cells.

How it spreads

You cannot get hepatitis C from casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing food or water with someone. You can get hepatitis C if you come into contact with the blood of someone who has hepatitis C.

The most common way to get hepatitis C is by sharing needles and other equipment (such as cotton, spoons, and water) used to inject illegal drugs.

Before 1992, people could get hepatitis C through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Since 1992, all donated blood and organs are screened for hepatitis C, so it is now rare to get the virus this way.

In rare cases, a mother with hepatitis C spreads the virus to her baby at birth, or a health care worker is accidentally exposed to blood that is infected with hepatitis C.

Experts aren't sure whether you can get hepatitis C through sexual contact. If there is a risk of getting the virus through sexual contact, it is very small. The risk is higher if you have many sex partners.

If you live with someone who has hepatitis C or you know someone who has hepatitis C, you generally don't need to worry about getting the disease from that person. You can help protect yourself by not sharing anything that may have blood on it, such as razors, toothbrushes, and nail clippers.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 06, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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