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Hepatitis C risk low among monogamous couples

Category: Blood and Blood Diseases

When a person uses STD testing services and discovers that they have a serious virus like HIV or hepatitis C, they may feel as though their sex lives have been ruined forever. However, that doesn't have to be the case. People should know that as long as they are careful, they may be able to have a normal sex life. For example, a recent study conducted by scientists from the University of California, San Francisco found that people with hepatitis C who are in monogamous, heterosexual relationships shouldn't be that concerned about their risk of transmitting their virus to their partner.

According to the scientists, transmission of HCV from an infected partner during sex is rare.

An unlikely prospect
The researchers explained that while HCV is usually contracted by exposure to infected blood, typically through intravenous drug use, there have been conflicting reports regarding whether exposure to blood during sex could carry some risk.

"Generally the risk for transmitting HCV to sex partners is very low," explains lead study author Norah Terrault, M.D. "Yet, lack of quantitative data about the risk of HCV transmission with sexual activity remains a limitation for doctors counseling their patients on safe sex practices."

Researchers examined 500 anti-HCV-positive individuals who did not have HIV and their long-term heterosexual partners. They asked partners about their sex life as well what personal items they share. Then, the scientists drew blood to determine a whether HCV was present in the couples' systems.

The researchers discovered that the maximum rate of HCV transmission by sex was 0.07 percent per year, which translates to roughly one per every 190,000 sexual contacts.

"Our study provides clinicians with important information for counseling chronic HCV patients in long-term sexual relationships, supporting the current recommendations that couples not change their sexual practices if they are in a monogamous heterosexual relationship," explained Terrault.

Some HCV facts
Most people with HCV have no symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. In fact, most people have no idea that they have it until decades later when they are experiencing liver damage. This is why people should regularly get blood tests to make sure they do not have this or any other virus that can lay relatively dormant in the body, but still cause serious damage down the line.

People who are at the greatest risk of contracting HCV include healthcare workers who have been exposed to infected blood, or those who have ever injected illegal drugs. Furthermore, individuals with HIV also have a high risk of contracting this virus, as well as people who have received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, since their donated organs may not have been tested for this virus.

Also, the National Center for Biotechnology Information still lists having unprotected sex with someone who has HCV as a risk factor for the virus, so people should take that into account.

Individuals who have HCV can keep themselves healthier by following certain health recommendations. For example, they should stop drinking alcohol because this may cause liver disease to progress. Furthermore, they should make healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating fruits and vegetables often, exercise on a regular basis and get plenty of sleep.

Finally, it's important for people with HCV to do everything they can to keep others from coming into contact with with their blood. This means covering all wounds, and never sharing razors or toothbrushes. Individuals should also avoid donating blood, organs or semen always tell their healthcare workers that they have the virus so they can take extra precautions to protect themselves from coming into contact with their blood.

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