Hepatitis C is a type of liver infection that’s transmitted through the blood of someone who contracts the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Contrary to popular belief, hep C can affect many groups of people.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millennials make up 36.5 percent of new cases, just slightly more than baby boomers. No wonder the CDC recommends that people ages 18 and up get tested for hep C at least once in their lives.
There are many myths that surround hep C — a disease that can be treated but often goes unnoticed. Here are seven hep C myths to stop believing right now.
Hate to break it to you, but there’s no vaccine against hep C (yet). And even if you’ve contracted hep C and received treatment, you’re not immune from contracting it again, so it’s important to take steps to protect yourself. That brings us to our next myth…
It’s actually pretty rare to transmit hepatitis C through sex (more on that in a minute). The main way the virus is transmitted in the United States is by injecting drugs with nonsterile needles and syringes.
According to the CDC, a syringe services program (or a needle exchange program) allows you to pick up sterile needles and syringes and learn about safer ways to inject that can help you avoid hep C.
As for sex, the chance of contracting hep C while gettin’ frisky is “believed to be low,” says the CDC. The CDC also says that the risk increases for:
- men who have sex with men
- people with multiple sex partners
- people who have “rough sex”
- people who live with HIV
You can help prevent the transmission of hep C in the bedroom by using condoms and other barrier methods (especially if you’re doing anything that might cause bleeding).
This one’s a bit tricky. According to the CDC, getting a tattoo at a shady place could open you up to contracting hep C if the staff happens to use contaminated instruments.
If you’re thinking about getting inked, look for a reputable shop that uses sterile tattooing tools. The CDC hasn’t found evidence of hep C transmitting at licensed, commercial tattoo shops. Same goes for piercings too.
Nope, hep C can’t be transmitted through swapping a little spit. You also can’t contract it from sharing a plate of food or a beer, or if someone accidentally coughs on you. The infection is only transmitted through blood.
Not so fast. Hep C can be transmitted through sharing razors, toothbrushes (ew!), or other personal care items that may come into contact with blood. (Think: Bleeding gums.)
If the gross factor wasn’t enough of a reason to keep your hygiene tools to yourself, the risk of hep C should do it.
Contracting hep C isn’t like contracting the common cold or flu, where you feel under the weather pretty quickly.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), The incubation period for hep C can range from 2 weeks to 6 months. After that, you might have symptoms like dark pee, gray poop, yellowish skin and eyes, and abdominal pain.
But chances are, you won’t feel any differently (at least not right away). The WHO says that about 80 percent of people don’t notice any symptoms after they initially contract hep C.
The only way to know for sure whether you’ve contracted the condition is through a blood test.
Back in the day, people living with hep C had few options for treatment. The medications that did exist were super expensive, caused tons of side effects, and often didn’t work for them.
Nowadays, people have a strong chance of kicking hep C to the curb before it causes serious liver issues, especially if hep C is caught early.
According to the WHO, direct-acting antivirals, which became available about a decade ago, are about 95 percent effective. They usually involve taking a pill a day for about 12 weeks.
And while these treatments can cause some side effects (like headaches and fatigue), they’re not nearly as bad as the old-school medications that used to be the standard treatment for hep C.
Once thought of as a condition that affects some age groups, it turns out that hep C can show up in people of all ages.
It’s transmitted through blood (not kissing or coughing). Injecting drugs with nonsterile needles and syringes is the main reason for new cases in the United States.
Some people also contract it during childbirth (if their parent had it), through rough sex without a condom or other barrier method, or by sharing personal care items.
If you contract hep C, you might not notice for decades, which could put you at risk for serious liver complications. Getting a blood test can help you find out if you’ve contracted the condition and start getting treatment, which can cure the condition for most people in about 12 weeks.