How can you get hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact.

Hepatitis C is spread when blood carrying the virus gets into the bloodstream of another person.

  • This usually happens through breaks in the skin or breaks in the lining of the nose and mouth.
  • Hepatitis C is a strong virus and can live outside of the body for many days. This means that dried blood can also pass the virus.

These are some of the ways hepatitis C can get inside the body:

  • Using drug equipment that has been used by someone else, such as needles, syringes, filters, cookers, acidifiers, alcohol swabs, tourniquets, water, pipes for smoking crack or crystal meth, and straws for snorting.
  • Getting a blood transfusion or an organ transplant that has not been screened for hepatitis C. In Canada, the screening of donated blood and organs for hepatitis C started in 1990. In some other countries, blood wasn’t screened for hepatitis C until more recently.
  • Re-using tools for activities that break the skin, such as tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture and electrolysis. In tattooing, reusing needles as well as ink and ink pots can spread hepatitis C.
  • Re-using medical equipment that should only be used once, such as needles for vaccines. Medical equipment that has been used with other people and not cleaned properly before being used again can also spread hepatitis C.
  • Sharing or borrowing personal items that might have blood on them, such as razors, nail clippers and toothbrushes.
  • During pregnancy or childbirth. A woman who has hepatitis C can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Having unprotected sex where blood could be present. For example, during anal sex, rough sex, sex during a woman’s period or when one person has open sores.

It is possible to have hepatitis C and another virus, such as HIV or hepatitis B. This is called co-infection and it can make the damage that hepatitis C does to your liver worse.

  • HIV and hepatitis B can pass from one person to another in the same ways as hepatitis C.
  • HIV can also get into the body through semen (cum and pre-cum), anal fluid, vaginal fluid and breast milk.
  • Hepatitis B can also get into the body through semen (cum and pre-cum) and vaginal fluid. There is a vaccine to prevent hepatitis B. In Canada, children and some adults can get this vaccine for free.

Read more:


What is hepatitis C?

How can you get hepatitis C?

Protecting yourself from hepatitis C

Getting tested for hepatitis C


This information was provided by CATIE (Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange).

For more information, contact CATIE at 1.800.263.1638 or

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