Blurry man after injecting drugs People who inject drugs are the most at-risk group for spreading and contracting HCV. The HCV virus causes hepatitis C. The virus is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact.
Viruses are inactive until they enter the living cell of a host. They will then hijack the hardware of the cell to make copies of themselves. Chronic HCV infection consists of millions, or possibly billions, of copies of the virus circulating within the body.
For a blood-to-blood infection to occur, blood from an infected person must enter the body of someone who is not infected. The biggest risk factor for becoming infected with HCV is sharing needles or equipment used to inject drugs.
HCV is not transmitted through casual contact, respiratory droplets, sharing food, kissing, or mosquito bites.
A speck of blood so small that it is not viewable to the naked eye can carry hundreds of hepatitis C virus particles. Cleaning a needle with alcohol, rinsing it with soap and water, and even letting the needle and syringe air-dry for several days will not kill the virus.
Once the virus is injected into the body, even if on only one occasion, exposure has occurred and infection is possible. Injecting drugs causes approximately 67 percent of global cases.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have identified the factors that lead to the greatest risk of HCV exposure. These include:
- being born between 1945 and 1965
- receiving transfusions or organ transplants before 1992
- using or having used injectable drugs
- long-term hemodialysis
- exposure to a needle stick, especially for people who work in healthcare HIV
- getting a tattoo in an unregulated setting
- risky sexual behaviors, such as unprotected intercourse with an intravenous drug user
- being born to a mother with HCV infection
- being incarcerated
- a history of long-term daily alcohol use
- unexplained liver disease
- snorting drugs People who are at risk due to these factors can receive a screening to rule out HCV.