Hepatitis C: What's Myth, What's Fact

Myth: There is a hepatitis C vaccine.

Fact: Currently, there is no hepatitis C vaccine available in the U.S. There are vaccines for hepatitis A and B. Researchers are, however, developing a vaccine for hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV. Researchers in Australia are working on a new type of DNA vaccine that could protect against both viruses and possibly provide a cure within the next five years. Clinical trials for the vaccine will begin in a year and will involve 40 people infected with hepatitis C.

Myth: Hepatitis C is easily spread through sex.

Fact: The rate of transmission of hepatitis C through sex is thought to be very low, but because HCV is spread through contact with the blood of an infected person it is possible. Certain factors increase the risk of spreading hepatitis C through sexual contact, including having multiple partners, engaging in rough sex, having a sexually transmitted disease and having HIV.

Myth: Hepatitis C is caused by alcohol abuse.

Fact: Even though hepatitis C is a virus that affects the liver and can lead to liver disease, it is not caused by alcohol abuse. But people with HCV should avoid alcohol because it can further damage the liver.

Myth: Insect bites can spread hepatitis C.

Fact: There is no evidence that HCV can be spread through mosquito bites or any other insects. It’s also not spread through sneezing, kissing, hugging, holding hands or sharing utensils, food or drink.

Myth: Drugs cause hepatitis C.

Fact: Although hepatitis C is not caused by drugs, today people most often contract hepatitis C through sharing needles and other equipment to inject drugs. Even people who injected drugs years ago, even one time, are at risk.

Myth: Many people contract HCV from getting tattoos.

Fact: Research has shown that HCV is not spread through [licensed, commercial tattooing facilities]. But it is possible when infection-control practices are not used. In addition, the risk of infection through personal care items, such as razors and toothbrushes, is very low.

Myth: Breastfeeding can transmit HCV.

Fact: Breastfeeding has not been shown to spread hepatitis C. But if the nipples are cracked and bleeding, it is possible.

Myth: You can’t cure hepatitis C.

Fact: Hepatitis C is cleared naturally from the body in about 15 to 25 percent of people who get the virus. But most people who get HCV will go on to develop chronic hepatitis C. Even in these cases [treatment options] are very successful, and new medications have cure rates between 70 and almost 100 percent. To be cured from hepatitis C means the virus remains clear from the blood at six months after treatment. This is called a sustained virologic response (SVR) and it means you will stay virus free indefinitely.

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