Although vaccinations exist for both Hepatitis A and B, a vaccine for Hepatitis C is still not available. There are steps you can take to avoid infection:
Many people become infected using intravenous drugs, like cocaine and heroin. Do not share any equipment associated with intravenous drug use including needles, spoons, water and other liquids, cotton balls- anything that could become contaminated by blood. Needle exchange programs exist in many major cities, offering free, sterilized needles. If you are a drug user who would like to stop, please speak with your doctor about finding drug treatment programs and support groups to help.
Some people become exposed to the virus while working in health care. Follow all safety guidelines, always be wary of contaminated needles and sharp objects and dispose of them properly, and protect yourself by wearing the appropriate safety equipment and gloves.
Some cases of the illness have come from improperly sterilized needles at tattoo parlors, piercing studios and acupuncturists. Be aware of the potential risks and have a conversation about safety with the practitioner.
If you have Hepatitis C, you can help prevent it spreading to others:
Never share your needles or other equipment and liquids that could be easily contaminated.
Always cover your scrapes, cuts and blisters if you are injured. Be sure to properly dispose of any items that come in contact with your blood.
If your hands or any object comes in contact with your blood, wash thoroughly with soap and water.
Keep in mind that regularly used objects such as your razor, nail clippers, toothbrush and supplies for diabetes could potentially be contaminated, so do not share any object that may have your blood on it.
Hepatitis C can be spread via blood and sperm, so please do not donate either.
You may continue breastfeeding if you are positive for Hepatitis C, as the virus does not pass through breast milk. However, it is important to remember that secondary issues like cracked nipples may put your baby at risk, so be sure to take good care of your breasts.
How can I protect my liver from the disease?
It is very important to keep your liver healthy. Here are some steps you can take to protect it:
Always use protection when having sex.
Avoid intravenous drug use.
Make sure you stay up to date on vaccinations, especially Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, as there is no vaccination currently available for Hepatitis C.
Personal items that could be contaminated with blood should never be shared.
Test the water in your home and be sure the water you drink is clean.
Hepatitis A can be transmitted through food, so it is important to make sure the food you eat is clean and prepared in a sanitary manner.
Ingredients in medications and supplements which can be harmless on their own, may prove toxic to your liver if mixed. Be sure your physician is aware of any vitamins, herbal or natural supplements, over the counter medications or other remedies you use so that they may determine if you can take them together without negatively impacting your liver health.