The San Quentin News “Health and Wellness Corner” column runs when articles are submitted for publication. Centerforce Peer Health Education facilitators (A. Carranza, K. Leal, L. Morris, and Dr. Lifshay) contribute to this column. Feel free to ask questions about health concerns that you have and it may be answered so that everyone can benefit. Put your questions in a U-Save-Em envelope addressed to: Health and Wellness Corner, Centerforce (Education Dept). Your name and number will be kept confidential.
In this edition we will address: What can you do to reduce risk of getting Hepatitis C?
As discussed in the Health Center article in the April issue of the San Quentin News, Hepatitis C is transmitted from person to person through blood to blood contact.
Here are some questions we have received related to preventing transmission of Hepatitis C:
Is bleaching an outfit a guaranteed way to kill the Hepatitis C virus?
If I burn a tattoo needle that is infected with Hepatitis C blood, will that kill the virus?
I heard that alcohol is an effective way to kill the Hepatitis C virus. Is this true?
No. There is no guarantee that bleaching an outfit, burning a tattoo needle, or using alcohol will kill the Hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C virus is a very “hearty” or strong virus. It can live outside the body, under the right conditions, for several days.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Bleaching, boiling, burning, or using common cleaning fluids, alcohol, or peroxide will not clean needles, tools and other instruments. These methods are not strong enough to kill the Hepatitis C virus. The virus can still spread easily from one person to another.”
I read the bottle of Cellblock 128 (disinfectant) and it says it kills Hepatitis C, so I can use that to clean my outfit, right?
No. Cellblock 128 is designed and has been tested to be used to clean specific items. These specific items do not include cleaning outfits. Furthermore, if you read the directions on the back of the bottle, it is only under certain conditions that the solution is effective. Therefore, if you do not use Cell Block 128 to clean items for which it was designed, and you do not use it according to the directions on the back of the bottle, it is not guaranteed to be effective at killing Hepatitis C.
The bottom line is that to be most careful, if you are going to use any injecting paraphernalia, needles, or any tattoo equipment (needle, gun, barrel, ink, etc), use your own. Do not buy or borrow anything else, whether it has been “cleaned” or not.
Is it true that you can get Hepatitis C from sex?
Yes, but it is rare. There have been some long-term studies of hundreds of heterosexual couples, where one person has Hepatitis C and the other person does not at the beginning of the study. After many years of following these couples, researchers found that there was essentially no transmission of Hepatitis C from partner to partner in these studies. There have been some cases of sexual transmission of Hepatitis C, but these have mostly been among HIV-positive people, and more often among men who have sex with men.
Researchers are still looking into why and under what conditions this transmission occurs. As CDC says, “(It is possible to transmit Hep C during sex), but the risk of transmission from sexual contact is believed to be low. The risk increases for those who have multiple sex partners, have a sexually transmitted disease, engage in rough sex, or are infected with HIV. More research is needed to better understand how and when Hepatitis C can be spread through sexual contact.”
The bottom line is that in most situations, it is very rare for transmission of Hepatitis C to occur during sex, but it can happen. To be most careful, if either you or your partner has Hepatitis C, you should use condoms during sexual intercourse.
Remember, Always get the facts!
The organization’s web site is www.Centerforce.org