7 Myths of Hepatitis C
Posted October 10, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 4 min read
The hepatitis C virus can cause an infection that, left untreated, may result in major liver damage. But despite the seriousness of the virus, many people are confused about who’s at risk and how it spreads from one person to another.
Myth: There’s No Effective Treatment for Hepatitis C
In the past, not everyone responded successfully to hepatitis C treatment.
But for the most part, that’s changed.
There are many effective antiviral medications on the market, and the CDC estimates that more than 90 percent of people who have the virus can be cured with eight to 12 weeks of treatment.
More good news - Many of these medications also cause fewer side effects than the older ones did.
Myth: There’s a Vaccine for Hepatitis C
There’s currently no vaccine that can prevent hepatitis C, but there are vaccines available for hepatitis A and B.
If you have hepatitis C, the CDC recommends talking to a doctor about getting tested and vaccinated for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, because those infections can further increase your chances of liver problems.
Today, the most common way to prevent hepatitis C is to avoid sharing injection drug equipment with other people, according to the CDC.
Getting an unregulated tattoo or sharing personal items such as razors or toothbrushes that may contain contaminated blood can also spread the virus.
Keep in mind that the virus can be cured with the right treatment.
Myth: Hepatitis C Is Spread Primarily Through Sex
While it’s possible to get hepatitis C by having unprotected sex with an infected individual, the CDC points out that this risk is thought to be low.
That’s because the virus is primarily transmitted through infected blood or bodily fluids that contain infected blood.
That said, some behaviors and circumstances could increase your risk of being infected (or, if you have hepatitis C, passing the virus on to someone else).
These include having a sexually transmitted infection (STI), having multiple sex partners, or taking part in sex that causes small internal tears and bleeding, such as anal or rough sex.
Myth: Hepatitis C Can Spread Through Casual Contact
You can’t contract hepatitis C from another person by hugging, kissing, or touching them, says the CDC.
Sneezing, coughing, or sharing food, utensils, or glasses also doesn’t spread the virus.
Instead, the virus is transmitted through the blood.
Today, people are most likely to get hepatitis C by sharing needles or other injection equipment.
Even if you live with a person who has hepatitis C, it’s unlikely the virus will spread within the household, says the CDC.
That said, it makes sense to take some precautions.
If your partner has hepatitis C, for example, don’t use their razor, toothbrush, or nail clippers, because these items could have trace amounts of blood on them.
If you’re cleaning up spilled blood even if it’s dried the CDC recommends using a dilution of one part household bleach to 10 parts water.
Myth: Hepatitis C Will Go Away on Its Own
Although some people will naturally rid their bodies of the infection, most will not.
An estimated 75 to 85 percent of people who are infected will go on to develop chronic hepatitis C, which can go undetected (and, therefore, untreated) for years, according to the American Liver Foundation.
The CDC estimates that more than half of people with chronic hepatitis C will eventually develop chronic liver disease.
The infection can also lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.
In 2019, the latest statistics available, there were 14,242 deaths attributed to chronic hepatitis C infection.
Myth: Hepatitis C Affects Only the Liver
Although hepatitis C primarily attacks the liver, the virus can also damage other parts of the body.
For example, some people will develop hepatitis C–related rheumatic diseases or conditions that affect the muscles and joints, even before they know they’ve contracted the virus, according to the American College of Rheumatology.
Other people with chronic hepatitis C can develop diabetes, fatigue, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, skin problems, and more.
Myth: If You Have Hepatitis C, You’ll Know It Right Away
Only about 20 to 30 percent of people with hepatitis C will develop signs and symptoms of the virus soon after being infected, according to the CDC.
And the symptoms that do develop, such as fatigue or abdominal discomfort, can be mild or unspecific, so you may be unlikely to visit the doctor.
Typically, the virus is discovered years after infection.
Some people learn of it only after being screened for hepatitis C or after developing serious health issues, such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, or kidney problems.