Some people who have been able to cure their hepatitis C with either the newer treatments or older ones may be curious as to whether or not they have become immune to the virus. Here's what you need to know.
Hep C is a complicated virus
There are at least six genotypes of the virus, and many subtypes of each genotype. Hep C mutates (changes form) frequently when replicating.
Because the Hep C virus has so many types and forms, scientists have not been able to develop a vaccine to protect against the virus. There is no vaccine to prevent Hep C.
Even if you clear the virus, you are not immune
About 25% of people exposed to Hep C spontaneously clear the virus during the acute phase (first 6 months) of infection, and do not go on to chronic infection. In this case, blood tests will always come back HCV antibody positive and HCV RNA negative. Even if you clear the virus, you are not immune. You can get infected with Hep C again, and you may not clear it a second time.
If you have Hep C, it is possible to be “super-infected” with an additional genotype of the virus. If you have chronic Hep C, it is still important to avoid exposure to other people’s blood.
You can be re-infected
If you are cured of Hep C through treatment, you could get “re-infected” from your own old blood, or the infected blood of another person. After treatment, it’s important to throw away your own old personal care items, drug use equipment or anything that may have blood on it. Avoid contact with the blood of others.
The only way to prevent Hep C infection, re-infection or super-infection is to avoid contact with blood.
- Do not share any drug use equipment (injection or intranasal)
- Do not share personal care items (razors, toothbrushes, or washcloths)
- Do not share medical equipment (syringes, finger-prick devices)
- Avoid sex that may cause bleeding.
You can be free of Hep C!
Get tested, get cured and make sure you avoid re-infection.
Hepatitis C: Facts for the Public. Centers for Disease Control.
Nirah is a clinical social worker and public health professional who has been raising awareness about hepatitis C and liver health in NYC since 2007. She organizes the Hep Free NYC network in NYC. @HepFreeNYC