Hep C is only passed on when blood from someone who has hep C gets into the bloodstream of another person.
This is called blood-to-blood contact.
Hep C can be passed on by very small amounts of blood – amounts so small you may not be able to see any blood.
In Australia the most common way for hep C to be passed on is when people share equipment used to inject drugs. This might mean recreational drugs or performance-enhancing drugs. Sharing any equipment may be a risk. This includes: needles, syringes, swabs, spoons, tourniquets, water, filters and hands (if someone is helping you to inject or you are helping them).
You may have injected drugs on only a few occasions, many years ago. This may have enough to contract hep C.
If you don’t inject drugs there are other ways that you might be at risk.
Hep C can be passed on when the equipment used to tattoo or piercing is not sterile. This is more likely if the person tattooing or piercing you has not been trained in infection control procedures.
Other ways that hep C might be passed on
- medical procedures or vaccinations in countries with poor infection control
- sharing personal-care items such as razors, toothbrushes, tweezers
- blood-transfusions in Australia before February 1990
- from mother to baby
- accidental pricking with a needle (also known as a needlestick injury)
- sharing drug-snorting equipment
- blood-to-blood contact during a fight
- sex involving blood-to-blood contact
- sex in which one or more people is living with HIV
This page was last updated 23 May 2016.