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%.
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
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:
- Ways HCV is NOT transmitted.
- Behaviors that have a great risk of catching HCV.
- 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
- sneezing and coughing
- holding hands
- kissing (unless there is deep-kissing and open sores
- using the same toilet
- eating food prepared by someone with HCV
- holding a child in your arms
- swimming in the same pool
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
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
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
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
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
- soak all utensils in 10% chlorine solution for at least
- 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 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