Hep C's spread
Blood is the most common means for
transmitting hepatitis C. With blood products now screened for the
virus, dirty needles have become the major source of new infections.
A consensus development conference at the National Institutes of
Health produced this advice to prevent the spread of the hepatitis C
- Don't share "works" for injecting drugs.
- Make sure needles used for piercing and tattooing have been
- Don't share razors, toothbrushes or straws used to snort
- Cover open wounds.
There are conflicting data on the
risk of sexual transmission, but the CDC found the risk so low that
it chose not to recommend universal condom use for people with HCV.
The exception is rough sex where bleeding takes place. And there's
some evidence that rimming (oral-anal sex) may be risky.
Pregnant women have only a small risk of passing the virus to
their newborns, but that climbs into double digits when they are
co-infected with HIV. Delivery by Cesarean section lowers this risk
Co-infection with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases in
either partner may increase the possibility of HCV transmission.
What about a preventive vaccine? The pharmaceutical company
Chiron recently began an early-stage safety trial, but any
marketable product is years away.