The bloodborne pathogens program (BBP) is a safety program aimed at protecting employees
who may be exposed to human blood, primary or established human cell lines, or other
potentially infectious materials (OPIM) while at work. Blood or OPIM can contain disease
- causing virusis such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.
Hepatitis B (formerly known as serum Hepatitis) is a liver disease caused by a virus.
The disease is fairly common; more than 2,000 cases are reported in New York State
Hepatitis C (formerly known as non-A, non-B Hepatitis) is a liver disease caused by
a recently identified bloodborne virus. Approximately 200 cases of Hepatitis C are
reported in New York State each year.
Who gets Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C occurs most often in people who have received a blood transfusion or who
have shared needles.
How is the virus spread?
Like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C is spread by exposure to blood from an infected person,
such as through a blood transfusion or sharing needles. The risk of sexual transmission
has not been thoroughly studied, but appears to be small. There is no evidence that
the Hepatitis C virus can be transmitted by casual contact, through foods or by coughing
What are the symptoms?
Some people experience appetite loss, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, vague stomach
pain and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
How soon do symptoms occur?
Symptoms may occur from two weeks to six months after exposure, but usually within
When and for how long is a person able to spread Hepatitis C?
Some people carry the virus in their bloodstream and may remain contagious for years.
The disease may occur in the acute form and be followed by recovery or it may become
chronic and cause symptoms for years.
What is the treatment for Hepatitis C?
There are no special medicines or antibiotics that can be used to treat people with
the acute form of Hepatitis C, but the FDA has approved a drug called recombinant
alpha interferon for treating people with chronic Hepatitis C.
Is donated blood tested for this virus?
Since May of 1990, blood donation centers throughout the U.S. have routinely used
a blood donor screening test for Hepatitis C. Widespread use of this test has significantly
reduced the number of post-transfusion Hepatitis C cases.
What are the possible consequences of Hepatitis C?
Approximately 25 percent of people infected with Hepatitis C virus will become sick
with jaundice or other symptoms of Hepatitis. 50 percent of these individuals may
go on to develop chronic liver disease.
How can the spread of Hepatitis C be prevented?
People who have had Hepatitis C should remain aware that their blood and possibly
other body fluids are potentially infective. Care should be taken to avoid blood exposure
to others by sharing tooth brushes, razors, needles, etc. In addition, infected people
must not donate blood and should inform their dental or medical care providers so
that proper precautions can be followed. The risk of sexual transmission of Hepatitis
C virus has not been thoroughly investigated, but appears to be minimal. Several studies
suggest that spread seldom occurs from people with chronic Hepatitis C disease to
their steady sexual partners. Therefore, limitations on sexual activity with steady
partners may not be needed. However, people with acute illness and multiple sexual
partners may be at greater risk and should use condoms to reduce the risk of acquiring
or transmitting Hepatitis C as well as other sexually transmitted infections.
Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis C?
At the present time, a Hepatitis C vaccine is not available.
Other Types of Hepatitis
- Hepatitis A (formerly known as infectious Hepatitis)
- Hepatitis D (delta Hepatitis)
- Hepatitis E (a virus transmitted through the feces of an infected person)