Sexual Transmission of HCV
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) often causes liver inflammation. In up to 80% of people initially infected with HCV, the disease becomes chronic, potentially leading to long-term liver damage. A small percentage (about 20%) of those who are HCV positive will progress to liver cirrhosis, and approximately 3-5% of those with chronic HCV infection will develop liver cancer. Experts estimate that at least four million Americans are currently chronically infected with HCV; the number of new cases of HCV in the U.S. is decreasing. Fortunately, there are several measures people can take to protect themselves from this potentially life-threatening disease.
How is HCV Spread?
HCV is a blood-borne disease, that is, it is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact. Any activity that lets one person's blood or body fluids to come into contact with another person's blood or mucous membranes can potentially transmit HCV. However, some activities are much more likely than others to spread the virus. HCV can be transmitted by sharing equipment for injection and non-injection drugs (for example, needles, cookers, cocaine straws, and crack pipes). Needles used for tattooing, body piercing, and acupuncture may also spread HCV. Sharing personal items like razors, toothbrushes, or nail files is a less likely – but still possible – transmission route. In the past, many people contracted HCV through blood transfusions, but since 1992 there has been a reliable HCV blood test and today donated blood is safe. Today the likelihood of contracting HCV through infected blood is less than .001%
Sex and HCV
We know that blood-borne viruses can be transmitted through certain types of sexual activity. HCV has rarely been detected in semen and vaginal fluids. However, most studies suggest that the virus is not often found in these body fluids, or that it is present in very low amounts and the virus particles may be noninfectious.
Most experts believe that the risk of sexual transmission of HCV is low. Most studies show that only a small percentage of people – usually ranging from 0-3% – contract HCV through unprotected heterosexual intercourse with a long-term, monogamous HCV-positive partner. Health Canada estimates the risk that a person will get HCV from unprotected sex with a steady HCV-infected partner at 2.5% over 20 years.
Some studies indicate that sexual transmission from men to women is more efficient than transmission from women to men.
Since HCV is spread through blood, the risk of sexual transmission may be higher when a woman is having her menstrual period.
According to the most recent (1997) National Institutes of Health consensus statement, people who have multiple sex partners should practice safer sex. Those in stable, monogamous relationships do not need to change their current sexual practices, although they should discuss safer sex options if either partner is concerned about sexual transmission.
Among people in so-called "high risk" groups (gay men, prostitutes, people with multiple sex partners, people seen at STD clinics), sexual transmission of HCV appears to be more common. The fact that people with more sex partners and other sexual risk factors have higher rates of HCV indicates that the disease is can be sexually transmitted. On the other hand, if sexual transmission of HCV were common, we would expect to see many more new cases of the disease among people whose partners are HCV positive.
Sexual transmission of HCV between men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women has not been well studied. Many studies show higher rates of HCV infection in gay men, but it is not known whether this is related to sexual activity. Anal sex may be a more efficient route of transmission than vaginal sex because the delicate lining of the rectum is more prone to damage that allows contact with blood.
There are no known cases of HCV being transmitted through oral sex on a man (fellatio) or a woman (cunnilingus). However, it is theoretically possible that the virus could be transmitted this way if a person has mouth sores, bleeding gums, or a throat infection.
There are no known cases of HCV being spread through kissing, including deep, open-mouth, or “French” kissing. It is theoretically possible that HCV could be transmitted this way if one partner has mouth sores, bleeding gums, or any other condition that could permit blood-to-blood contact. But this mode of transmission is believed to be very rare.
Vaginal fluid is a body fluid and hep c is a small virus and it takes only a small amount to be infectious I had a cut on my hand that was not bleeding but nevertheless it was a break in the skin one could see why someone would worrry
Hep c required blood to blood contact to an open wound a 24 hour old non bleeding cut is not an open wound
Transmission / Exposure
How is Hepatitis C spread?
Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before 1992, when widespread screening of the blood supply began in the United States, Hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
People can become infected with the Hepatitis C virus during such activities as
Sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs
Needlestick injuries in health care settings
Being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C