Hep C Transmission - Q & A

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So ... how do ya get hep C?

Here, we attempt to answer this age-old question.

NOTE: The medical info on this page was updated on: May 04, 2011


"I have been diagnosed with Hep c but have no viral load.  So I guess I had it at 1 time.  The doctor told me that 2 – 3% of people get rid of it without meds and I am 1 of those.  I got lucky there.  My question is can this virus come back.  Or am I safe on saying once you have Hep C you kind of always have it. Thanks 

      “Keith  kcstephens@sbcglobal.net"


From one kc to another ... lemme first say, congratulations on slaying your dragon, man.  That’s great news!  The answers are no & yes – and yes & no.  Clear as mud, eh?   ... o.k. – I’ll explain.

So first ya wanna know if the virus can come back. 

Well, probably not that same strain of the virus.  In fact, you’re most likely protected against that particular strain or genotype.  According to what science knows so far, you’re probably good to go for about 10 years in that respect.*  But if you do things that put you at risk of catching hep C (like it says here), it’s possible to catch another strain or genotype.  For example, yours truly here – when diagnosed in ’95 – showed up with genotypes 1a & b.  

You also asked us if – once a person has hep C – do they always have it?  

Now, assuming you meant, if they spontaneously recovered ... aka, cleared it on their own, like you did.  I suppose if you count the hep C antibody it left in ya as “hep C,” then I suppose ... but you’d be wrong.  Most of the rest of the world – including us here at the Straightup - call having the hep C VIRUS  having hep C. 

It’s like this ... if you had the mumps or chicken pox when you were a kid, then you had ‘em, it left a little antibody in ya, & you don’t get it again.  This is the case with most people.  But we don’t go around saying we got the friggin’ mumps or chicken pox.  Get my drift?

Your doctor is part right about spontaneous recovery, in that people do beat their own hep C.  But ... 3%??!!  Sounds like he’s way underguessing how many of us do.  It’s really never been properly tracked – mostly cuz it’s so hard to catch hep C when we first get it.*  But, the most recent, best try to figure that out, tells us it’s more like 20%.*   ... and we here at the Straightup gotta speculate that it’s gotta be more than that.  But with a lot of questions to answer, I’ll spare ya that soapbox for now .... 

So, if you wanna consider yourself as having it ... that’s up to you.  In our own humble opinion, we’d say ya survived it.  Again – congrats – and take’r easy.

Acute Hepatitis C: Clinical Presentation, Laboratory Findings, and Treatment Outcomes. Rohit Loomba,
      MD, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NIH, Bethesda, MD. Abstract
      Presentation. 2005 AASLD.



"I have a question ... My fiance' has been diagnosed with Hep C after having a chemical poisoning in his system from work. He has been tested a second time which was about 30 days or so later from being tested positive the first time, and it too was testing positive with very low levels. I had read something about Toxic Hep; could this be related at all to the Hep C positive he had gotten?

"Also, he had bloodwork done about 3 months prior to the Hep C positive result and it was fine. Do you know what the time of being infected is, in order to show a positive through bloodwork?

"I'm just worried and want to do the best by him to keep him well...

"Thank You"


Hi there, Miss Fianceé. 

I can sure appreciate your concern.  But it sounds like your fella has hep C.  And while he may very well have had a kind of toxic hepatitis from the chemical poisoning, it doesn’t have anything to do the hep C.  See ... hepatitis is literally translated from the greek, as a swollen liver.  All those -itis words are the same deal.  For instance, meningitis = swollen brain, arthritis = swollen joints, etc. Get the picture? 

But hep C is a strain of the hep C virus, that goes chronic in most people who get it.  It’s explained real well on our Kick Start (here) and Chronic (here) pages. 

You also asked how long it takes for hep C to show up.  Well ... it’s kinda hard to say.  There’s not a lot of data out there on when someone first gets hep C (aka, acute), cuz it’s so damn hard to tell, and at first the viral load bounces around all over the place.*  But unless he got tested specifically for hep C when he had that bloodwork done that you mentioned, it’s not likely that they even tested for it.  If they did, he’d have to have requested it, or at least been told about it.

On the upside, if it’s an acute case of hep C, then there’s still a real good chance that he’ll clear it with his own immune system – or would have a helluva shot at clearing it with the current treatment (pun fully intended).  Good luck to y’all with getting hitched & alla that. 

Acute Hepatitis C: Clinical Presentation, Laboratory Findings, and Treatment Outcomes. Rohit Loomba,
     MD, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NIH, Bethesda, MD. Abstract
     Presentation. 2005 AASLD.

(Note: something a little different here ... 2 questions, 1 answer ... not a lot to
  figure out, but we thought we oughta say something about it.  -- the editor)


"what are the risk of a baby getting hep c dearing birth if the male has hep c."


“Hi your info is great. my question is probably pretty farout, here goes my kid's dad has hep -c and called today to say he's been told he has liver cancer, he's had C for about 16 yr's. is it safe to try to have another child? we were going to try this month .he's not on any treatments or meds .thanks for any anwser's even the one's I might not like. Maria” 


Hi there, folks. 

These two questions are so similar, I thought I’d answer them together.  ... and that answer is, “no.”  I found nothing in the literature that showed a case of HCV in sperm transmitting to a fetus.  Hell ... there isn’t even a case of HCV in sperm transmitting to the mother – absent some kinky blood sport, that is.

Even cases of an HCV positive mother transmitting to a newborn (aka, perinatal transmission), are very, very rare.  Even these – while few in number – more often occur during C-section births. 

So ... good luck!


“I was diagnosed with Hep C 5 years ago. I was referred to a liver specialist, he basically said I didn’t have to do anything as I do not have the disease, must have kicked it. I get rechecked every year, nothing has changed. I really don’t understand this diagnosis and can’t find any information. I have many questions, can I infect someone else, and can the disease reoccur? Would really appreciate any links or references. Thanks.



Nope ... and nope (like it says here & here).  That is, unless you do any of the things that can give ya hep C (like it says here).  So, congratulations!


"Can I contact hep c if I was in a hot tub with someone who had it and they got cut in the tub and bled for a short period of time? or by wiping up their blood off the floor? I have no cuts or open wounds at that time ??"


No open wounds or cuts?  ... then, nope.  It’s a blood borne disease ... meaning blood’s gotta meet blood (like it says here)

Still ... I make a habit of letting the people I go riding with know where I keep a bunch of latex gloves in the event I fall down & go boom.   

It’s a good question.  Funny thing, but just after you sent this, I saw that Hepatitis Central had an article on their site about this.  You can find a link to their site here

Things that make you go, hmmmm....


"If my body has on it’s own cleared the virus completely… Am I still contagious to other people???


Nah ....  In fact, more people than ever may want to get in your genes. 

                      o.k.  ... just kidding.

But seriously folks ... for those who’ve cleared the virus, on their own (aka, spontaneous recovery), chances are you’re pretty well protected from hep C from here on in.*  The same’s not true for people who’ve gone SVR.  Scientists found out that folks who spontaneously recovered from hep C, did so because of juiced-up T-cell responses that lasts for decades.

So, there’s an HCV antibody swimming around in your blood, but it’s just that – not active virus.  Take’r easy ... and congrats!

Does Treatment-Induced Recovery from Hepatitis C Result in the Same Immunological Memory as
     Spontaneous Recovery?
Christina Weiler-Normann, MD, Liver Diseases Branch, NIDDK, NIH,
     Bethesda, MD. Abstract presentation. 2005 AASLD.


"Email 1:
My boyfriend has chronic hep c and he just suddenly broke out in sores from penis down and i was giving oral sex and never knew. What are the chances of me getting this, and what do the sores mean.

“Email 2:
hi i had asked a question and i dont see the answer to it yet so i was wondering if you could possibly email it to me, i am a little freaked out. My bf has chronic hep c and never knew he had sores on his penis and i had given oral and after that there was blood in his stuff (lol). so i'm worried that i might be able to catch it that way. Thank you again."


o.k., o.k. – hold your pants on (so to speak).  I can understand how you’d be freaked out.  But you didn’t miss anything.  When I answer Q’s, I research em first, so I’m not just talking out my ass here.  Still ... ya can’t get hep C from your b/f having sores on his penis.  Nor are genital sores a symptom of anything related to hepatitis. 

But you do sound concerned about whether or not you could catch hep C from him.  For that to happen, his blood would have to enter your blood stream to transmit (like it says here) ... and even that isn’t a guarantee of transmission.   There’s a lot of people that can get acute hep C – but it doesn’t become “chronic – they just kick it themselves.*

Still, the best way to lay that worry to rest is to get tested.  Ya ask me what the sores mean.  Sorry ... can’t help ya with that one.  Good luck to ya.

* Randomized Trial of Pegylated Interferon for the Treatment of Acute HCV in
   Seattle Injection Drug Users
. Chia Wang, M.D. , University of Washington, Seattle,
   WA. Poster presentation, AASLD 2005. 


"Hi ,

I was told I had hep c two years ago and not sure how long I have had it, never did drugs, heavy drinking, but had my share of sex.

I have not have sex for thirteen years, but recently in the last six months met someone and you know the rest.

My question is every time I have sex with him I bleed a little.  Will that effect him?  he has no cuts and knows all about my hep c. we used to have protected sex and now we don't. Is their any chance he will contract it.

thanks, nan"


“ ... and you know the rest.”  Actually I don’t ... but I’ll sure enjoy trying to imagine it.  

Naw ... I’m shittin’ ya.  Seriously, your ol’ man has as much of a chance as anybody to contract hep C, depending on what other risk factors he has (like it says here)

Is there a chance he’ll get it from you through sex?  Not really (like it says here & here & here).   Monogamous heterosexual couples have a real low rate of transmission; numbers vary between 2 – 10%.  And that’s usually from shared razors, toothbrushes, shared tattoo & piercing implements, etc.

But the fact that you bleed every time you have sex is a real heads up.  While that's likely unrelated to hep C, ya might wanna have your doctor (or gyno, whoever tends to such things) check that out cuz that kind of bleeding probably means something else.  Good luck


My brother has had hep C for over a decade.  He never stopped drinking and drugging.  Sometimes, his symptoms seemed to be gone.  Now, they are back with a vengeance: vomiting, etc.

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  I did the surgery, the chemo, etc., and here I am 2 years later still trying to get over the treatment (which sucks). 

I want to go see my Dad (who lives with my brother), but, it would mean staying at the house that they share.    Problem............I am afraid of getting hep C.    I'm just recovering from the treatment for the ovarian cancer, and I feel I could easily be a candidate for hep C.

What really causes me the concern is that, I would be staying with my brother, sharing bathrooms etc.  Because he is vomiting daily, I've been concerned with being exposed to body fluids (microscopic virus germs).

Please help me make an informed decision.


Well, I can appreciate your concern ... especially coming off of cancer treatment.  No doubt your immune system’s pretty shot, and on a slow mend.

The straight up is, because hep C is a blood-borne disease, so there’s no way you could catch it from visiting your family; even if your brother puked all over ya.  You might wanna take a look at the straight up on transmission (here).   ‘Course I’m assuming you don’t engage in any other risky behaviors, that you can also read about on our transmission page. 

Your question is a good one, and I’m glad you asked it.  Sure don’t blame ya for being gun shy after what you’ve been through.  Good luck, and feel free to share this site with your brother.



"Can you get hep c from unprotected sex?"


Me?  … nope – already have it. 

   ... er, well ...  not from sex anyway.  It is possible to catch an additional strain of hep C (but i digress...).

But seriously folks ... here’s the straight up: 

*      FACT: Hepatitis C is a blood-borne pathogen.  Put another way, blood with hep C in it has to get put directly into your blood (see here & here & here) either by injection, or other ways.

*      FACT: Getting hep C from unprotected sex has NOT been scientifically proven.  It can’t be, because the review boards that have to approve studies really frown on this kind of stuff.  For example:

*      you would have to lock up over 1,000 couples together for decades (although some call that marriage);

*      make sure they didn’t share razors, toothbrushes, & otherwise bleed into each other’s wounds;

*      make sure they didn’t do drugs with needles or straws;.

*      FACT: The U.S. government’s health guru’s (CDC & NIH) will NOT say hep C isn’t sexually transmitted, because it hasn’t been scientifically proven (see previous bullet point).

*      FACT: Approximately 3 to 5% of babies contract hep C from mothers infected with hep C – and those are attributed to C-section bleeding.  I know that pregnancy & childbirth isn’t the same as sex, but hey … talk about sharing body fluids….  I mean, think about it.

*      FACT: unprotected sex leaves you open to all kinds of other nasty stuff, like hep B, HIV, herpes, etc.  But our philosophy is this:

U.S. health organizations include “persons with multiple sexual partners” in their category for high risk to contract hep C, and recommend testing.  I speculate that this is a judgment call on their part.  One hep doctor once shared with me that he thought this might be because a person with multiple sexual partners is likely to engage in other high risk (for hep C) behaviors.  Again … nothing here’s proven.

One final fact on the topic is this.  I know a few long-time, married couples, where only one partner is hep C positive.  The non-hepper partners told me that, in their 30+ years of marriage & prior to any hep C diagnosis, they’ve done everything a couple can do (and they emphasized “everything”), but still hadn’t gotten hep C.

My own bottom line is that I try to be responsible.  If it looked like I was gonna get lucky (cuz I’m lucky all the time now – got a great partner), I would:

*    tell any potential partner about my hep C – well before the heat of the moment;

*     offer information about it (hey – like Hep C Straightup, where Blue Collar is spoken);

*      encourage them to educate themselves on it;

*    and let them decide.

So, there ya go.  Good luck, and have fun!


"At what age can you catch hep c.  Can a 17 year old IV drug user get it?"


Well … there’s bad news & good news here.

Hep C can get ya at any age – it really doesn’t matter – as long as it’s transmitted by blood (like it explains here).   So, yea … someone who screws around with needles has a better-than-most chance to get it. 

The good news?  Currently-approved Hep C treatments are easier on a young person, and they have a better chance to clear the virus.  But if they don’t want to go through all that crap, a 17-year-old likely has a helluva lot more time to consider options, or wait for better, easier, more effective treatments to come out (like here).

So, 17-year-olds are NOT immune … they just might “think” they are.


"Let’s say Jane was just diagnosed, hep c and Jane wants to have a baby with her partner.  Is there a risk of the partner getting infected with the hep c virus if they have unprotected sex?"


Well the CDC might say there’s a risk – but straight up, I’m saying that the risk is greater that Jane’ll get hit with lightning.  Now, this is assuming Jane isn’t into some kinky blood sport thing ….




"I’m 41 years old and recently had an affair with a friend of mine who works in the med field and says he’s hiv and std free because he gets tested every 6 months.  I gave him oral sex and before I could pull away he ejaculated.  Well, I got most of it out but may have ingested a little ….  is that a high risk for hep-c?

"Thank you for listening."


Well, you’re very welcome – glad to help.  The short answer is nope not a high risk at all for hep C.  You’re more likely to win the lottery, unless … his semen was bloody AND you have open, bleeding sores in your mouth, or stomach, or anywhere in between.  Hep C is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact.

Even if you’d both been bleeding every which way … it’s also true that not everyone exposed to hep C contracts chronic hep C – about 20%.  The folks at St. Johns Hopkins University  say these lucky people have good genes: quick-responding, strong immune systems (press release, 8-5-2004).  There’s also an entire uncounted group of people who’ve had hep C for years, cleaned up their act, and gone viral negative. 

Hep C is present in small amounts in sperm, & all kinds of other sexual body fluids.  Even still, I've yet to find one conclusively documented case of hetero sexual transmission.  But just to be safe the CDC overestimates this rate of transmission at 5 - 15%.

Check this out: Hep C positive women almost always give birth to babies without hep C. There’s also no documented case of transmission from mother to a breastfed baby, even though hep C is present in breast milk.  So ... I'm thinkin' you can relax.

For all the other stuff, it's a pretty safe assumption that safe sex is a safe bet whenever the sex isn’t with your mate. 



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on: 09.20.2012

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