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How is the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Transmitted?

There are many ways that people may become infected by HCV, the most common way of transmission is by blood-to-blood contact.

  • Drug Use:
    • Intravenous Drug Use is the most common cause. HCV is found in approximately 85-100 percent of Intravenous drug users. HCV is transmitted from one person to another through the sharing of needles or drug equipment. The smallest speck of blood can cause the spread of HCV.
    • Intranasal Drug use: Sharing of the "straw" used in "snorting drugs" can also be a potential route of spreading HCV virus. The "straw" combined with "snorting" can cause the small blood vessels of the inside of the nose to bleed.
  • Infected blood or blood products: The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) have being testing all blood and blood products for HCV since 1991.
  • Piercing of the body: Tattoos, body piercing, electrolysis or acupuncture with infected needles.
  • Childbirth: The risk of spreading HCV from mother to child during childbirth is approximately 3 to 7 percent. Antibody testing on babies is not accurate until they are about 18 months.
  • Sexual Contact: The risk of spreading HCV through sexual contact is approximately 1 to 5 percent. It is thought that the risk of spread even less than that if in a long term stable (monogamous) relationship.
  • Health workers: Through needle stick injuries and blood splashes.
  • Unknown: Some people who have HCV are unable to account for their infection.

HCV can not be caught by:

  • Coughing and sneezing.
  • Shaking hands.
  • Kissing.
  • Toilet seats.
  • Using the same cooking and eating equipment.