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What Increases Your Risk

Certain things may increase your risk of becoming infected with the hepatitis C virus. Just because you are at risk for getting hepatitis C does not mean that you have the virus.

Needle use or accidental stick

You can get hepatitis C from:

  • Sharing needles and other equipment (such as cotton, spoons, and water) used to inject drugs.
  • Having your ears or another body part pierced, getting a tattoo, or having acupuncture with needles that have not been sterilized properly. The risk of getting hepatitis C in these ways is very low.
  • Working in a health care environment where you are exposed to fresh blood or where you may be pricked with a used needle. Following standard precautions for health care workers makes this risk very low.

Other possible risks

Sometimes people get hepatitis C from:

  • Having had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992. Since 1992, all donated blood and organs are screened for hepatitis C.
  • Having been exposed to unsafe practices for giving shots, such as reusing needles. This occurs in some developing countries.
  • Needing to have your blood filtered by a machine (hemodialysis) because your kidneys cannot filter your blood.
  • Being born to a mother who has hepatitis C. The risk of passing the virus to a child is greater if the mother is also infected with HIV.

Experts are not sure if 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.

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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