Hep C Stories

Transmission

How does a person get hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease. It can be passed when the blood of a person with hepatitis C gets into another person’s bloodstream. Blood can be passed even when the amount of blood is too small to see.

In Canada, hepatitis C is most commonly passed through sharing equipment to inject drugs. A person can also get hepatitis C from:

  • getting a tattoo or piercing with reused or unsterilized equipment
  • sharing crack pipes or straws for snorting drugs
  • having anal sex without a condom (the risk is higher if you have rough sex, HIV or other sexually transmitted infections)
  • sharing personal items, such as razors, toothbrushes or nail clippers

It is possible to get hepatitis C from a medical procedure with unsterilized equipment. This can occur in countries where there is limited access to new needles and sterilized medical or dental equipment.

It is rare for hepatitis C to be passed during pregnancy. Hepatitis C can be passed to an infant through breastfeeding if the mother’s nipples are cracked and bleeding.

Hepatitis C is NOT passed through most day-to-day activities. It cannot be passed by handshakes, hugs, kisses, coughs, swimming pools, toilet seats or sharing forks, cups, food and towels.

How can you avoid passing hepatitis C?

If you inject drugs, use your own equipment every time you use—including new needles, cookers, filters, vitamin C powder or citric acid, water and alcohol swabs. If you use new equipment every time, there is no chance of getting or passing hepatitis C or other infections like HIV.

If you smoke or snort drugs, use your own pipe or straw.

If you are getting a tattoo or piercing, the artist should use a sterile tattooing machine or piercing equipment, new needles, new ink and ink pots and new gloves. In a professional studio they should have an autoclave to sterilize equipment.

Use a condom when having sex, especially if you might be having rough sex or if you or your partner has HIV or another sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Avoid sharing toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers and other personal items.