Prevention of Hepatitis C Virus Infection

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread only by direct contact with blood that contains the virus. There are ways to prevent yourself from becoming infected

hepatitis C risk factors
© Verywell, 2018 

Do Not Inject Drugs or Share Needles

Drug Use

Intravenous (IV) drug use, or injecting drugs in any way, is the leading single cause of the spread of HCV. To protect yourself, avoiding the use of ​used needles is the single best way to stop the spread of HCV.

It is difficult to abruptly stop using addictive drugs. If you are addicted to illegal drugs, a needle exchange program may be available in your area. These programs offer ways to get sterile syringes and many of these programs provide additional services, such as referrals to drug treatment centers, counseling, and primary health care. For more information, check with your local department of public health.

Medical Use

If you use needles for medical care, always use sterile equipment and do not share needles for any reason.

Avoid Unprotected Sex

The risks of becoming infected with HCV from an infected sexual partner increases if you have contact with blood, have unprotected sex, or have multiple sexual partners. Co-infection with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases also increases the risk of infection. Wearing a condom or insisting that your partner uses a condom is an effective method of avoiding transmission of HCV

Use Licensed Tattoo, Piercing and Acupuncture Studios

Tattoos and piercings can be the source of HCV infection if a contaminated needle is used. If the needles or equipment used on your body are not properly sterilized, you could be exposed to blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. 

Acupuncture, fillers, cosmetic injections and other therapeutic procedures can also be sources of HCV transmission. Make sure that any facility you use is licensed and that sterile needles are used for all bodywork.

Do Not Share Razors

Sharing razors are not as high risk as sharing needles when it comes to HCV infection. However, if these items have blood on them, there is a possibility of spreading HCV. Shaving often results in nicks to the skin that cause bleeding and can leave trace amounts of blood on a razor. Make sure you use only your own razor and ensure nobody else uses it. 

Do Not Share Nail Clippers

Although there is a small risk of becoming infected with HCV from nail clippers, they have the potential to spread HCV because they may come into contact with blood. 

Do Not Share Toothbrushes

Toothbrushes are often contaminated with blood. People with open sores in their mouths or bleeding gums can easily get blood on their toothbrushes.

There is a test that can identify the presence of HCV antibodies (immune-fighting proteins) in the saliva, but generally, HCV is not believed to be spread by saliva.

There Is No Available Vaccination for HCV

So far, there is no vaccine that you or your child can take to ​protect against HCV. There are many strains of the virus and they mutate (change genetic characteristics) rapidly. This makes it difficult to identify a particular virus for which a vaccine could be developed. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is there any medication that can get rid of hepatitis C?

    Hepatitis C (HCV) is treated with antiviral medications—oral drugs that work by preventing the virus from multiplying. These antivirals can cure the infection in more than 90% of patients.

  • Can hepatitis C get better without treatment?

    Yes. For as many as 40% of people who have an acute HCV infection, the virus is eliminated by the immune system without causing illness or complications, typically within six months. If the virus remains in the body for longer than that, the infection is regarded as chronic and can lead to severe complications if not treated.

  • What is the risk of getting hepatitis C from a blood transfusion?

    It's very low. Less than one case per two million blood transfusions results in HCV infection.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis C questions and answers for health professionals.

  2. Tohme RA, Holmberg SD. Transmission of hepatitis C virus infection through tattooing and piercing: a critical reviewClin Infect Dis. 2012;54(8):1167–1178. doi:10.1093/cid/cir991

  3. Karmochkine M, Carrat F, Dos Santos O, Cacoub P, Raguin G. A case-control study of risk factors for hepatitis C infection in patients with unexplained routes of infectionJ Viral Hepat. 2006;13(11):775–782. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2893.2006.00742.x

  4. Sohn HS, Kim JR, Ryu SY, et al. Risk Factors for Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Infection in Areas with a High Prevalence of HCV in the Republic of Korea in 2013Gut Liver. 2016;10(1):126–132. doi:10.5009/gnl14403

  5. Cavalheiro Nde P, De La Rosa A, Elagin S, Tengan FM, Araújo ES, Barone AA. Hepatitis C: sexual or intrafamilial transmission? Epidemiological and phylogenetic analysis of hepatitis C virus in 24 infected couplesRev Soc Bras Med Trop. 2009;42(3):239–244. doi:10.1590/s0037-86822009000300001

  6. Lock G, Dirscherl M, Obermeier F, et al. Hepatitis C - contamination of toothbrushes: myth or reality?J Viral Hepat. 2006;13(9):571–573. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2893.2006.00735.x

  7. Callendret B, Walker CM. Will there be a vaccine to protect against the hepatitis C virus?Gastroenterology. 2012;142(6):1384–1387. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2012.02.010

  8. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Hepatitis C medications: An overview for patients.

  9. San Francisco Department of Public Health. Hepatitis C.

Additional Reading

By Charles Daniel
 Charles Daniel, MPH, CHES is an infectious disease epidemiologist, specializing in hepatitis.