Hepatitis C threat – take preventive measures

I REFER to reports that 500,000 people may have hepatitis C. According to a UN report, Malaysia is one of 10 countries, which collectively accounted for over 95% of all new HIV infections in the Asia-Pacific region. And hepatitis C infection plays a role in this scenario as drug addiction is involved.

There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C infection. But we can take preventive measures.

Hepatitis C can only be transmitted through blood transfer and small amounts of blood is enough to contract the disease.

Drug addicts are prone to this disease as they form the bulk of intravenous drug users.

They are at greatest risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C because many share needles. Adduced to needles, the virus may be present in other equipment used with illicit drugs. Even sharing a straw or a ringgit bill when snorting cocaine can lead to hepatitis C transmission. Bleeding in the nasal passages frequently occurs when snorting cocaine this way, and microscopic droplets may enter the straw and be passed on to the next user.

Medical staff like nurses or health care workers need to be extra careful to avoid coming into direct contact with blood. Tools that are used to draw blood in clinics should be discarded safely or sterilised to prevent hepatitis C infection.

Many items that we use daily will occasionally be exposed to blood. People often accidentally cut themselves while shaving, or their gums will bleed while brushing their teeth. Even microscopic amounts of blood can potentially infect someone, so it is vital not to share personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers and scissors.

Tattooing seems to be popular. Unless sanitary measures by an expert tattoo artist are adopted where disposable needles and ink wells are used for each customer, hepatitis C would be a real threat. Go only to a licensed tattoo and piercing artist who follows sanitary procedures. A new needle and ink well should be used for each customer.

If you are suffering from a sexually transmitted disease like HIV then there is a greater chance of contracting hepatitis C through sex.

Dr A. Soorian