Hepatitis C virus
(HCV), also formerly known as "non A-non B", is another
pathogen that you need to be aware of if you have occupational
exposure to human blood or other potentially infectious materials.
Hepatitis C virus has been found in all parts
of the world. The virus appears to be transmitted most
efficiently through parenteral exposure to blood from
an infected individual. Common examples of transmission
events are: receiving a blood transfusion from an infected
source or sharing intravenous drug needles with an infected
Comparing HBV and HCV
Like HBV, symptoms of HCV can range from no symptoms
or flu-like symptoms to jaundice and even death in rare instances.
Also similar to HBV, HCV has a carrier state which can
lead to chronic infection and liver disease.
Unlike HBV, there is currently no vaccine for
HCV available and immune globulin administered after exposure
does not appear to be very effective in preventing HCV infection.
Although the risk of HCV transmission is still
being defined, the risk of transmission by the following routes
appears to be low:
- regular household contact situations
- sexual contact
- passing the infection from mother to unborn child
Cases of transmission of HCV to health care workers
have occurred through accidental needle sticks, cuts with
sharp instruments, and splashes to the eye with human source
Recent studies have indicated that the risk of
transmission for HCV through a parenteral exposure is ~ 2%
or 20 in 1000, somewhere between HBV and HIV.
Because there is no treatment or vaccine for HCV,
preventing exposures through dedicated use of universal precautions
and safe lab practices is the most effective way to reduce
transmission of HCV, as well as other BBP's, in the workplace.