Can Hep C Be Transmitted Through Saliva?

Hepatitis C is a transmittable liver disease that may cause a mild illness lasting just a few weeks, or a serious, chronic disease that affects the liver. It is caused by infection with the Hep C virus (HCV), which is primarily transmitted through the blood of an infected individual. However, are there other means of getting the virus? Can it be transmitted through saliva?

Can Hep C Be Transmitted Through Saliva?

There have been a few evidences of saliva acting as a vehicle for Hep C under certain circumstances. However, the good news is that there is very minimal risk that Hep C can be transmitted through saliva because the environmental conditions are not ideal for the propagation of the virus. Hep C can only be transmitted through saliva if the viral load is over one million, and both parties have gum disease. It will never hurt to maintain good oral hygiene to keep the risks of contracting Hep C to a minimum. Meanwhile, people who already have Hep C should not share personal items for oral care, such as toothbrushes.

How Is Hep C Transmitted?

Hep C transmissions occur most often when needles and other equipment for injecting drugs are used by more than one person, even just once. This can be either in a medical setting or in tattoo parlors. The risks are especially high if the tattoos are made with contaminated equipment or by someone with no professional training. Causes can also be hemodialysis, organ transplants, and blood transfusions, but cases of the last two have rarely been reported since 1992. Hep C can spread by sharing razors and other items that may come into contact with blood. It can also be transmitted at birth from mother to child, or via unprotected anal or period sex, but rarely through penile-vaginal sex.

Hep C Will Not Be Transmitted in the Following Ways:

Now you have got the answer to "can Hep C be transmitted through saliva?", but in what circumstances Hep C is not transmitted. The following are not likely to cause virus transmission, as long as they do not involve blood in any way:

  • Sharing food and water
  • Casual skin-to-skin contact (kissing, holding hands, and hugging)
  • Being coughed at or sneezed on

Breast-feeding is also safe, as long as the mother’s nipples are not cracked or bleeding.

How to Prevent the Infection of Hep C

As of now, there is still no vaccine that has been developed against Hep C. The best way to ensure safety from contracting the virus is simply to take preventive measures. The most important would be to avoid using needles to inject drugs. Make sure that all needles, filters, spoons, and even water are sterile and untouched. Similarly, body art such as tattoos and piercings must only be applied using fresh and sterilized equipment. Wash your hands after contact with an injection site. 

A condom and water-based lubricant should also be used during sex if there is a chance of blood contact, such as during anal sex or menstruation, or if there are any injuries near the genitals. Don’t share toothbrushes, razors and dental floss. These items can easily lead to bleeding due to gum disease or careless usage. Healthcare workers should be especially wary of the infection control procedures at work.

How to Tell If You Are Infected with Hep C

Besides the answer to "can Hep C be transmitted through saliva?" you may need information to tell if you are infected with Hep C. Early symptoms are rare with Hep C. The worst that usually happens is a minor flu-like illness, though other reports include darker urine and jaundice. These symptoms also disappear after a few weeks, but take care as more often than not, the infection still remains.

Any kind of Hep C symptom needs alarm and should be medically assessed by a healthcare professional as soon as possible so as not to increase the chances of contracting chronic Hepatitis. Chronic or long-term hepatitis is characterized by an inflamed liver and includes symptoms such as joint pain, fever, soreness under the rib, nausea and loss of appetite, and lethargy.

The only guaranteed way of checking for Hep C is through a blood test, particularly an HCV antibody test which can detect past or existing infections. Positive results for this test can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to show up, so a negative result does not always indicate that the patient is HCV-free. Another test should be conducted after 3 to 6 months to be sure. However, the results do not indicate whether the infection is chronic. If the antibody result is positive, another test called a Polymerase Chain Reaction is necessary to tell if the virus is still lingering.

How to Treat Hep C If You Are Infected

In fact, "can Hep C be transmitted through saliva?" is not a question to worry about. The treatment methods will be of great importance if you are infected. The first step to treating Hep C is to stop alcohol intake, which quickens the progression of liver disease. Next, antiviral medications and liver transplants can also be undertaken the infection with Hep C.

Antiviral medications help clear the Hep C virus from the body completely after at least 12 weeks. Although these medications have been available for decades and have been improved considerably throughout the years, they unfortunately still cause several side effects. These side effects include flu-like symptoms, depression, anemia and neutropenia. Because of these side effects, medications are often discontinued.

Fortunately, recent developments have produced better medications that have fewer side effects and require shorter treatment periods. The type of treatment, however, will vary greatly depending on the virus genotype, as well as the existence of other medical conditions, especially pre-existing liver damage and prior treatments. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

Meanwhile, liver transplants are recommended for patients with severely damaged livers. However, the transplant is not a cure and will still require treatment with antiviral medications, since there is a high chance of recurring infections in the new liver.

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