There are no vaccines against the Hepatitis C virus. Prevention of this infection lies in making lifestyle changes and getting screened regularly.
Injection drug abusers are advised never to share any injecting equipment, such as needles, syringes, filters etc.
Having multiple sexual partners and a partner with hepatitis C infection raises the risk of the infection. Getting tested and treated as well as use of barrier contraceptives like condoms helps prevent infections.
Blood, organs and tissues from donors are now routinely tested for presence of hepatitis C virus and this has dramatically reduced the risk of infection among recipients.
High risk groups
Some high risk groups include:
- those who received blood before 1992
- patients and employees in hemodialysis centers
- sufferers of haemophilia
- injecting drug users sharing contaminated needles and/or injection materials
- people exposed to unsterile medical or dental equipment or tattoo, acupuncture and piercing equipment
- exposure to blood while working (e.g. among healthcare workers)
- infants born to infected mothers etc.
Steps to prevent hepatitis C
Steps to preventing hepatitis C spread and transmission thus include:-
- Avoiding sharing everyday use items like razors, toothbrushes etc. with an infected person.
- Keeping cuts and wounds clean and covered.
- Cleaning blood from surfaces with bleach.
- Avoiding sharing needles or syringes or any drug use equipment with others. There are several needle-exchange programs for injecting drug users that may help limit the spread of hepatitis C as well. These programs have significantly helped curb spread of hepatitis B and HIV infection among injection drug users.
- Those with hepatitis C infection should not donate blood, organs or tissues.
- Using condoms when having sex with new partners.
- Blood banks are advised to discard donor units of blood that have elevated liver enzyme levels (ALT and/or AST) even if the blood tests negative for anti-hepatitis C antibody.
- Those who are carriers of hepatitis C virus are strongly advised not to take alcohol as alcohol may aggravate liver damage leading to scarring of the liver, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.