Hepatitis C is a blood virus that causes damage to the liver over a period of time. It can also lead to cancer development. There are usually no symptoms until liver damage has begun or set in. The symptoms can include feeling exhausted, joint and muscle pains, sore stomach, itchy skin and dark urine. These symptoms may eventually recede, after which you might develop jaundice – a yellowing of the skin and eye whites.
There are several ways hepatitis C can be transmitted;
Before 1992 in the US, there was no screening process on blood donations for hepatitis C. If you received a transfusion before then, it is possible that you received infected blood. Since 1992, however, there have been strict guidelines introduced and people with blood infections of viruses are unable to donate. If you received an organ donation before this date too, it could have been infected.
Drug users are the most susceptible to contract hepatitis C. It is common for infected needles to be re-used to take illegal drugs. For medical professionals, there is a risk that they will be pricked by a needle used on an infected person also. Tattoo and piercing guns can be infected also so if you are getting tattooed or pierced you should be sure that a clean, sterilized, or new needle is being used.
Razors and toothbrushes that are being shared can lead to hepatitis C transmission. Any other hygiene product that could be exposed to infected blood is also a risk. Be sure that if you or someone you live with is infected that you use separate razors and toothbrushes.
Though it is not certain that sexual intercourse can lead to infection, having sex with an infected individual can increase your risk. If there are any small tears in or around the sexual organs, or if an infected woman in menstruating, there is a risk of infection. Though condoms cannot fully protect you, they can reduce the risk of contracting the virus, and other STIs.
Though very rare, mothers can pass the virus to their children during childbirth. The virus can also be transmitted through breastmilk so if you are infected you should avoid breastfeeding your baby.
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