Blood to blood contact

What is blood to blood contact?

Hepatitis C is mainly transmitted (passed on) through contact with the blood of an infected person. This is commonly referred to as blood to blood contact.

The virus cannot 'travel' by itself. It needs a 'vehicle' to get from one person's bloodstream to another's. The vehicle in this case is anything that can cut, nick or scratch the skin enough to draw blood. How you get Hep C therefore varies as there are different ways for this to happen.

There are three important steps to infection.

  • Exposure. An infected person bleeds, 'exposing' others to their infected blood.
  • Transmission. Infected blood enters another person's bloodstream.
  • Establishment. The virus reproduces itself until there is enough of it to survive.

 Here are two different examples of how this might happen.

A nurse inserts a needle into the back of a patient's hand. The patient has Hepatitis C. As it is being withdrawn, the patient jerks and the needle goes into the nurse's finger. The virus enters her bloodstream and recreates itself over and over again, until infection is established.

An infected drug user helps his girlfriend inject with the same needle he has just used. A drop of his blood enters her bloodstream via the needle. Perhaps it is the one and only time she ever uses drugs intravenously. It makes little difference to the virus; as long as it is able to establish itself, she will get Hepatitis C.

See also

Hepatitis C Trust: What not to share

Hepatitis C Scotland

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