Hepatitis C is the most common blood borne illness in the United States with over 2.4 million people currently living with this disease.
Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver that’s caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). While it’s possible for hepatitis C to be an acute, or short-lived, illness for some, the unfortunate truth is that the majority of those who contract it live with it long-term. Long-term, or chronic, hepatitis C can lead to a myriad of health complications such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.
If you do become infected with hepatitis C, the chances of you knowing you have it are low since it often doesn’t present with symptoms until it’s advanced. Because there is not currently a vaccine for hepatitis C, practicing prevention habits is vital.
That’s why Serge Lartchenko, MD, and the rest of our expert team at Texas Infectious Disease Institute located in Richardson, Texas, want to give you some guidelines on how to keep yourself safe against hepatitis C.
Using intravenous drugs puts you at the highest risk for developing hepatitis C. This is because used needles are one of the most common ways that HCV is spread. If you use intravenous drugs, make sure that you use a new needle every single time and never share needles with friends. Also, make sure to always get needles from reputable sources like a pharmacy.
If you’re a health care worker, it’s extremely important to practice safety when you’re exposed to blood. Make sure to wear gloves when cleaning any cuts or wounds, and always safely dispose of needles or anything else used to draw blood.
You can cut yourself shaving or your gums can bleed while brushing your teeth. For these reasons, it’s vital that you don’t share these kinds of items with others. Even the smallest amount of blood has the risk for infection, so don’t share personal care things like toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers, or scissors.
Always get tattoos and piercings done by licensed professionals. Piercing and tattoo artists should always use the correct sanitary products and procedures. In addition, needles and ink pots should only be used for a single person.
If you have multiple sexual partners, always use a condom or some other type of latex barrier. You also want to make sure that you’re both tested and treated for not only HCV, but also human papilloma virus (HPV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and sexually transmitted infections (STI), such as chlamydia. Having an STI puts you at greater risk for developing HCV through sexual contact.
If you suspect that you’ve been exposed to HCV, it’s important to be screened for it. Early detection is key for proper diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C. The earlier it’s caught, the better the prognosis.
To get expert care from our infectious disease specialists, contact us by giving our team a call at 469-960-4413 or by using our convenient online scheduler today.