Blood Donation Restrictions for Hepatitis A, B, or C

Donations are denied for most viral types

woman drawing blood from patient
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According to the American Red Cross, someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion every two seconds, translating to around 36,000 units of blood per day. With such a need, anyone who is willing to give blood should.

However, some people can't because of a pre-existing health condition. One of these is hepatitis. But, don't be mistaken. Despite what people may tell you, this doesn't include all types of hepatitis.

Types of Hepatitis

By definition, hepatitis is simply the inflammation of the liver. While we typically associate it with a communicable virus, it can also be caused by parasites, bacterial infection, alcohol abuse, autoimmune disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

However, the most common causes of hepatitis are viral, chief among these are Hepatitis A, B and C. Because of the way each virus is transmitted, people with certain types of viral hepatitis can donate blood while others can't.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is mainly spread by contaminated food and water. If you are infected with hepatitis A, you will likely experience symptoms of the disease (including jaundice, fatigue, and nausea). Once recovered, the virus will be fully cleared from your blood and protective antibodies will remain to prevent future infection.

If you have ever had hepatitis A, there is nothing barring you from donating blood. If, however, you have signs of hepatitis, whatever the cause, you will not be allowed to donate until you have fully recovered.

Hepatitis B and C

Unlike hepatitis A, hepatitis B and C are blood-borne viruses that are highly communicable. Hepatitis B is mainly spread through sex, shared injecting needles, and mother to child (MTC) transmission during pregnancy. Hepatitis C is primarily transmitted through shared needles and MTC.

If you have ever had hepatitis B or C or tested positive for either, you will not be allowed to donate blood irrespective of whether you have had symptoms of the disease or not.

Other Restrictions

Because viral hepatitis is spread by different means, health authorities have placed the following restrictions on people who may have been potentially exposed to the virus:

  • If you live with someone or have had sex with someone who has hepatitis, you must wait 12 months after the last contact before you can donate.
  • You must also wait 12 months after receiving a blood transfusion (unless it was your own blood) or have been exposed to an unsterile needle (such as through shared needle use or an accidental needlestick injury).

However, according to current guidelines, you can donate blood if you have had non-viral hepatitis from toxic exposure, drug reaction, or alcohol use so long as there are no symptoms of hepatitis at the time of the donation.

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Article Sources
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  2. American Red Cross. Eligibility Criteria: Alphabetical.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis A Questions and Answers for the Public. Updated September 10, 2019.

  4. Pfaender S, von Hahn T, Steinmann J, Ciesek S, Steinmann E. Prevention strategies for blood-borne viruses-in the Era of vaccines, direct acting antivirals and antiretroviral therapyRev Med Virol. 2016;26(5):330–339. doi:10.1002/rmv.1890