Hepatitis C guide

Hepatitis C risk factors


How do people get infected with hepatitis C?

Anyone can get hepatitis C...usually through direct contact with the blood of an infected person. The most common risk factors are:

  • A history of STDs
  • A history of unprotected sex
  • A new sexual partner
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • A sexual partner or household member with hepatitis C
  • Healthcare workers exposed to blood
  • Hemophiliacs (people affected by a hereditary bleeding disorder)
  • Intravenous (IV) drug use and sharing needles
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Tattoos, piercing or acupuncture

If you have hepatitis C, notify your partner(s) so he or she can also be tested and treated if necessary...also, avoid alcohol and don't share needles, syringes, razorblades or toothbrushes. Use a latex condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex, and use a condom or dental dam if you have oral sex.

What are some ways that hepatitis C cannot be spread?

You cannot get hepatitis C through food, water, eating utensils, sneezing, kissing, holding hands or breastfeeding.

Want to learn more?

Last reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD, January 2011.

Lisa Oldson, MD

STD expert

"The first thing I tell a patient about STDs is that if you're worried about one STD, you should probably worry about all STDs. In other words, if you had unprotected sex and you're worried about a possible HIV exposure, it's important to understand that hepatitis can be spread in the same fashion...ditto for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis."