Here are some facts you may not know that can help you stay healthy.
- Many people don't have a clue they have hepatitis C.
There are two types of hepatitis C: acute and chronic. Chronic hepatitis C is the most common type. It is diagnosed after the disease has remained in the body for more than six months. Acute hepatitis C is less common—it also causes less harm to the body. Sufferers have few signs or symptoms of liver damage, which often prevents them from even knowing that they have the disease!
Experts say 70%-80% of people with acute hepatitis C are symptom-free. You can live with the virus for decades without becoming ill or developing liver failure. The only way to know for sure if you have hepatitis C is to have a blood test.
- You can get hepatitis C by brushing your teeth.
Don't borrow anyone else's toothbrush—especially if you or they have hepatitis C. Sharing personal-care items that may have come in contact with another person's blood—like toothbrushes and razors—can promote hepatitis C transmission.
- You can't get hepatitis C from a mosquito bite.
Insect stings may be annoying, but they don't transmit the hepatitis C virus.
- You may (or may not) get hepatitis C from having sex.
The jury is out as to whether hepatitis C can be transmitted sexually. "It's still controversial," says Dr. Cox. "I tell people in long-standing, monogamous relationships in which one person has not been infected that they don't need to change their sexual practices as long as they understand the remote possibility of transmission."
- A wild youth may put you at risk.
If you snorted cocaine or other drugs, you are at higher-than-normal risk for hepatitis C. Why? "When you share the (rolled-up dollar) bill that goes down the line, you are exposed to other people's mucus," says Dr. Cox. "And that mucus can go directly into your mucus membranes and into your bloodstream."