C is transmitted almost exclusively through blood-to-blood contact. If infected
blood enters the bloodstream of another person, this can cause a hepatitis C
C can be transmitted by:
blood products have been screened for hepatitis C since a test became available
in 1991. Before 1991, HCV was often transmitted via contaminated blood
transfusions and other products made from blood or blood plasma, such as
coagulants (e.g. for people with haemophilia) or immunoglobulins (e.g. anti-D
immunoprophylaxis for rhesus-negative pregnant women). Today, blood
transfusions and blood products in Europe are considered to be safe.
- Sharing needles and other
equipment used to inject or snort drugs
frequently transmitted between people who inject drugs by the shared use of
needles, syringes and other equipment used to prepare a drug for injection.
Sharing a straw or rolled-up banknote to snort drugs through the nose can lead
to infection with hepatitis C if traces of blood are present.
- Contact with infected blood
(e.g. needlestick injuries)
workers who come into contact with blood are at risk of becoming infected with
HCV. Accidental injuries with contaminated needles and cannulae are among the
most frequent routes of transmission in healthcare settings.
- Medical or dental procedures
C can be transmitted during medical or dental procedures if instruments or
equipment have not been sterilised. Inadequate sterilisation of equipment used
in kidney dialysis or internal investigations such as bronchoscopy may also
result in transmission. The risk of transmission during medical or dental
procedures is estimated to be low in Europe today, but remains high in many
regions of the world.1 Re-use of needles or syringes is
still a common practice in medical settings in poorer regions of the world and
is also a route of transmission.
- Use of unsterilised
instruments in tattooing, piercing, acupuncture
be transmitted by using unsterilised instruments in tattooing or by dyes which
are used more than once, when carrying out piercings or even reusing
contaminated acupuncture needles.
See also Less common routes of transmission.