Hepatitis G

Hepatitis G (HGV) is an enveloped RNA virus. It is more prevalent than HCV with 2% of US blood donors testing positive for this disease. According to the Canadian Hepatitis Information Network, this blood-borne pathogen is often transmitted at the same time as HCV. There is currently no vaccine for this type of hepatitis.

The medical profession has not yet reached a consensus on how much of a threat, if any, this recently discovered virus poses to humans. Despite the high frequency and incomplete knowledge about the virus, the $200.00 price tag to test for HGV is usually considered an unjustified expense even for donor blood. HGV lowers the response to treatment for HCV by 6%.

Hepatitis Co-Infection

An article presented at the Canadian Hepatitis Education Council stated there are now more then twenty known genotypes (subspecies) of HCV. If you had Hepatitis C (HCV) in the past, there is no guarantee you won't become reinfected with a different HCV genotype. Even if you are one of the fortunate people whose body has cleared one genotype, there is no guarantee your body can clear another one.

Having had Hepatitis A (HAV) or Hepatitis B (HBV) does NOT protect you from getting Hepatitis C (HCV). Even if you have been vaccinated for HAV and/or HBV, you are NOT protected from getting HCV.

 

How is HCV Transmitted?


In a perfect world there would be no HCV, or at least a vaccine to protect you from getting it. However, there is no vaccine for this type of hepatitis; although there is for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.

The best way to hopefully avoid this disease is to choose a lifestyle that gives you the least possible exposure to the virus.

This section will explain:

  1. Ways HCV is NOT transmitted.
  2. Behaviors that have a great risk of catching HCV.
  3. Behaviors that have a low risk of catching HCV.

 

How HCV is NOT Transmitted


The hepatitis C virus is NOT airborne; therefore, it is NOT spread by:

  • sneezing and coughing

  • holding hands

  • kissing (unless there is deep-kissing and open sores present)

  • using the same toilet

  • eating food prepared by someone with HCV

  • holding a child in your arms

  • swimming in the same pool


From HEPATITIS C FAQ, Version 4, dated August 1, 2000.



High Risk Behaviors - 1

HCV is a bloodborne pathogen meaning it is contracted from the exchange of contaminated blood. The virus must enter the body through the skin or mucus membrane. Some behaviors carry a high risk factor for becoming infected while others have a lesser risk. Some behaviors, such as eating chocolate, probably carry no risk at all; but that's a personal opinion and I haven't found it researched. Okay, that's a joke! You're suppose to chuckle or smile.


Recreational Drug Usage

Guidelines given to protect intravenous and nasal drug users from HCV are guidelines that are just as effective in a legal, clinical setting. One common theme is: if you're going to use drugs do not share drug equipment. Hepatitis Central's article, What is Hepatitis" says:

"The sharing of I.V. and snorting drug paraphernalia is now thought to be the most common way of becoming infected. All I.V. drug paraphernalia is involved - syringes, spoons, filters, water, and tourniquets. Stopping the bleeding at the injection site with your fingers also involves transmission risks as well as the alcohol pads used. Snorting straws have also been determined as a way of transmitting the virus. The sharing of ANY paraphernalia can lead to the transmission of hepatitis C."

 


Intravenous Drug Usage

The Canadian Hepatitis Information Network says intravenous drug users test 65 - 80% positive for HCV. People with only one episode of intravenous drug usage in the sixties and seventies and are now manifesting HCV in its later stages.


Nasal Drug Usage

Another high risk behavior for HCV infection is sharing tools used to snort cocaine because the sinus skin is very thin and permeable.

 

High Risk Behaviors - 2


Tattoos and Body Piercings

Even though a tattoo artist uses a sterile needle, the ink may contain and transfer the HCV virus. According to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 33% of subjects that had tattoos tested positive for HCV. According to that same report, contracting HCV while getting a tattoo is twice the risk of intravenous drug usage.


Transfusions, Transplants and Blood Products

Prior to 1990 when a test was discovered to screen blood donors for HCV, there was a high rate of infection in patients who received transfusions or transplants. Hemophiliacs have a 70 to 80% rate of HCV infection because of their need for transfusions. In the US, many children were contaminated with HCV by intravenous immunoglobulin therapy. In Ireland, HCV was spread to women during childbirth when they were given the blood product Factor D.


Needlestick Injuries

Because health care workers have a greater chance of being stuck by a contaminated needle, they have a slightly higher incident of HCV. The risk of HCV infection following an accidental needlestick is 20 to 40 times greater with HCV than with HIV

 

Low Risk Behaviors - 1

People who have not participated in high-risk behaviors but test positive for HCV have contracted the disease by a method called spontaneous infection. The Hepatitis Society of Canada states that 40% of infected people are unaware how they contracted HCV. The Washington Academy of General Dentistry states more than 50% of infected patients are unaware how they contracted HCV.

This high ratio is not surprising since the Health Canada says the virus can live several weeks in dried blood. It is important to eliminate high risk behaviors and reduce low risk behaviors in an attempt to remain free of the HCV dragon.


Personal Grooming Items

The Hepatitis C Society of Canada states the disease can spread by sharing personal hygiene products (razors, nail clippers, scissors, tooth brushes and water pics) with an infected partner.


Beauty Industry including Electrolysis

Research by the Canadian HepCBC says transmission through the beauty industry is a factor. You can be infected if nicked by a razor or scissors at the beauty parlor or barber shop since Barbersol does not kill the virus. Emory University School of Medicine recommends you patronize only beauty parlors or barber shops that:

  • use an autoclave
  • boil all utensils for a full twenty minutes between customers
  • soak all utensils in 10% chlorine solution for at least ten minutes
  • allow customers to bring their own rollers, brush and comb
  • use disposable razors instead of a communal straight edge
  • If you get artificial fingernails, make sure the grinder is changed before you put your hands on the table.

Professional Cleaning

Professional carpet cleaning, restoration, janitorial, and floor-maintenance personnel may be required to clean a blood spill in an apartment, office or hospital. The USA has set guidelines for safety from bloodborne pathogens in these situations and non-compliance can result in $7,000 to $70,000 fines. The risk for contacting contaminated blood would also exist for employees in a laundry or dry cleaning establishment.