The cause of hepatitis C infection is no mystery: The virus is spread by exposure to the blood of someone who already has the disease.
For many years, blood transfusions were the principal causes of hepatitis C transmission. This was before the early 1990s, when not much was known about hepatitis C -- when it was not even named. In 1992, all donated blood began being tested for hep C, essentially eliminating transfusions as a problem.
Today, needle-sharing -- almost always by users of illegal drugs -- tops the list.
Here are the leading causes of hepatitis C infection today:
• Use of needles and other paraphernalia in order to inject illicit drugs.
• Use of contaminated tattoo or body-piercing tools.
• Sharing a toothbrush, razor blade, tweezers, nail clippers and other personal care items with an infected person. (Bleeding gums, for example, could infect toothbrushes, dental floss dispensers.) Some experts extend this warning even to hairbrushes.
• Exposure via work in the medical or law enforcement fields.
• Rough sex, usually involving unprotected anal intercourse.
• Sex with a person who has HIV. Read the latest information on homosexuals and hepatits C, and the HIV-HCV connection.
Having the hep C virus shouldn't have much of an effect on how you go about your day-to-day activities and how you relate to people. According to the Centers for Disease Control's hepatitis unit, you are not in danger of spreading HCV by way of the following activities.
• Hugging, kissing and cuddling
• Coughing or sneezing
• Sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses
• Food or water
• Breast feeding
• Casual contact
• Oral sex
Related content: Learn about the risks of hepatitis C transmission via sex.