How Hepatitis C
Is Spread

Can you “catch” hep C?

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread when blood from a person infected with the hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. The hepatitis C virus can remain infectious outside the body for up to 6 weeks. Spreading the virus can happen in different ways, like:

  Hep C can be transmitted by sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs

Sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs

Hep C can be transmitted by needlestick injuries in healthcare settings

Needlestick injuries in healthcare settings

Hep C can be transmitted by mother-to-child transfer at birth

Mother-to-child transfer at birth

Hep C can be transmitted by getting tattoos or body piercings with contaminated needles

Tattoos or body piercings done with contaminated needles or by a nonprofessional

Hep C can be transmitted by blood transfusions and organ transplants (before 1992)

Blood transfusions and organ transplants (before 1992)

Hep C can be transmitted by sexual contact (rare)

Sexual contact with someone who has HCV

Hep C can be transmitted by exposure to blood containing HCV that has not been cleaned up

Exposure to blood containing HCV that has not been cleaned up 

Hep C can be transmitted by sharing personal items that may have come in contact with blood containing HCV

Sharing personal items like razors, toothbrushes or nail clippers that may have come in contact with blood containing HCV

Hep C fact Hep C fact Hep C fact

You CAN’T get hep C from:

  • hugging or kissing
  • sharing eating utensils or food
  • being near a person with hep C who coughs or sneezes

You can ONLY get hep C from:

  • blood containing the hep C virus coming into contact with your blood

Who should get tested for hepatitis C?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hepatitis C testing for:

All adults aged 18 years and older or any person who requests hepatitis C testing should receive it. 

In addition:

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  • All pregnant women during each pregnancy
  • Children born to mothers with HCV infection
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  • Anyone who has injected drugs and shared needles, syringes, or other drug preparation equipment at least once, even if it was many years ago.
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  • People who are receiving hemodialysis
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  • People who received an organ transplant, transfusion of blood, or blood components before July 1992
  • People who were notified that they received blood from a donor who later tested positive for HCV infection
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  • Healthcare, emergency medical, and public safety personnel after needle sticks, sharps, or mucosal exposures to HCV positive blood
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  • People who received clotting factor concentrates produced before 1987
  • People with HIV
  • People who have abnormal liver tests or liver disease

CDC recommends regular testing for:

  • People who currently receive maintenance hemodialysis
  • Anyone who currently injects drugs and shares needles, syringes, or other drug preparation equipment
Hep C fact Hep C fact Hep C fact

about
2.3million

adults in the US are living with HCV

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent hep C, but it can be cured. Cure means the hepatitis C virus is not detectable in your blood months after treatment ends.

Rick F, hep C patient

The most difficult part of living with hepatitis C was knowing I have it, not knowing how I got it, and fearing that someone could get it from me.

Rick F., hep C patient

Hep C patient exercising Hep C patient exercising Hep C patient exercising

Talk to your healthcare professional about hep C

Be prepared to help guide
the conversation.

Start here
Hep C patient with his family Hep C patient with his family Hep C patient with his family

How do I find out if I
have hep C?

Learn how your healthcare professional will diagnose you.

Get the details