Dr. Dean

Can I Catch Hepatitis C From My Friend?

Posting Date: 05/22/2001

Kirstin: My very dear friend was diagnosed with hepatitis C when she was 19. We?re both now 32. What are my risks of contracting it from her? We?ve shared as much as a cigarette together when we were younger and now we don?t do those things. Are there any risks involved?

Dr. Dean: I wish we knew more about it. Though there are questions about this, we believe it?s a coming semi-epidemic because the disease mostly remains dormant for most of your life. So you do something when you?re 19 to catch it ?- and we can discuss that in a second ?- and then many decades later you come down with liver disease, maybe even needing a liver transplant, and the cause was this festering hepatitis C virus. A lot of you who have it don?t even know you have it.

It was originally called non-A/non-B, and we thought it was transmitted by transfusions and that was that. Then we found it could be transmitted with needle and drug use. Now we?re finding other ways. Other risks include sharing toothbrushes, razors, or other personal care articles. They might have blood on them. There is a potential risk from tattooing or piercing if the artist does not follow good health practices. Hepatitis C could be transmitted through sexual activity, but this does not happen every often. When in doubt use a condom!

In addition we have discovered that snorting cocaine through any type of tube could transmit it. Cocaine is a very intense vasoconstrictor; it constricts your blood vessels and can cause little patches of tissue to die, so you can get a little bit of blood on whatever you inhale it through. If the tube is passed around and there is blood left on it, you may become infected. We believe it may be strictly the blood contact that?s doing it and not contact with mucus or saliva.

We do not think it can be transmitted by kissing and by sharing saliva and by casual means, but there is a nagging threat that sexuality can transmit it.