In addition to a baby-boom birth year, risk factors include snorting or injecting illicit drugs, time in prison and unsterile tattoos.
The sharing of used needles as well as blood transfusions before 1992 have been the main causes of hepatitis C transmission in the United States.
Anyone can get the hepatitis C virus, and 3 in 4 people with the virus were born from 1945 to 1965, members of the baby-boom generation. Younger generations have benefited from universal precautions against the virus spreading and mandatory infection control procedures. The virus was eliminated from the blood supply by 1992 after widespread screening was adopted.
How does a person get hepatitis C? Transmission happens through contact with blood from an infected person, and certain risk factors can make infection more likely.
You have a higher risk of hepatitis C if you:
- Have ever injected or snorted illicit drugs
- Have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Received a tattoo or piercing in an unsterile environment or with unsterile equipment
- Were ever in prison
- Are a health care worker who has been exposed to infected blood
- Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
- Received blood-clotting drugs before 1987
- Have been on dialysis for a long time
- Were born to a woman with hepatitis C
- Have had sex with someone with hepatitis C or with many partners
Hepatitis C causes liver inflammation and can lead to severe liver damage, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and even liver cancer. Half of the people with hepatitis C don’t know that they are infected. This is because they have no symptoms, which can take decades to appear.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a one-time blood screening test for those who have an increased risk of infection. The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to be tested.
Symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, fever, jaundice and muscle aches.
Hepatitis C is curable as long as you find out.