What do I do?

If this is an emergency, please call 000 right now.

What do I do…if I’ve been exposed to bodily fluids?

Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, semen and vaginal fluids, while hepatitis C is transmitted only through blood to blood contact only. All other body fluids – saliva, breastmilk, urine, faeces, sweat and tears do not transmit hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

You also need to consider the situation and if it is risky – or how risky. For a transmission to occur a great analogy is the ESSE principle.

E – Exit Blood with either hepatitis B or hepatitis C needs to exit the person’s body

S – Sufficient There needs to be sufficient virus in that blood. The amount of virus in someone’s blood will change, and can make this element hard to define.

S – Survive How long the virus has been outside the body? Viruses need the human body to survive and elements such as sunlight and heat kill viruses.

E – Enter The blood must enter back into the blood stream of another person.

Risk Activity Hepatitis B Hepatitis C HIV
Unprotected sex (vaginal) Very high Very low High* or moderate*
Unprotected sex (anal) Very high Very low Very high* or moderate#
Sharing injecting equipment among people who inject drugs Very high Extremely high Very high
Unsterile tattooing and piercing Very high Very high Moderate
Social contact (sharing water bottles, cigarettes, toilets, kissing, and food No risk No risk No risk

*Unprotected receptive vaginal sex is high risk for HIV transmission, compared to unprotected vaginal sex (insertive) is moderate risk.

#Unprotected receptive anal sex is very high risk for HIV transmission, compared to unprotected insertive anal sex being moderate risk.

What do I do…if I get a needle-stick injury?

Getting a needle stick injury can be a very stressful event. The chances of contracting hepatitis B or hepatitis C from a needle stick injury are low. There are two different types of needle stick injury.

A community needle stick injury – is when someone is pricked by a used needle in a park or on a beach. Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C will die soon after contact from sunlight and heat, so the chances of contacting these viruses are considered to be low risk.

Check out our What to do if you find a used needle factsheet, if you need to collect the syringe that caused the injury.

An occupational needle stick injury is a different situation due to how quickly the contact between individuals generally occurs. If the patient is known to be positive, the estimated risk of transmission is as follows:

  • HIV – approximately 0.3%
  • hepatitis C – approximately 3%
  • hepatitis B – approximately 30% (remember hepatitis B has a vaccination so the risk for those who are vaccinated can be removed)

What do you if you get a needle stick injury

  1. Stay calm!
  2. Wash injury site and surrounding skin with soap and water
    • If you don’t have soap use alcohol based hand sanitisers
    • Use a bandaid, if necessary and apply pressure if wound is still bleeding
    • Do not squeeze or rub the injury site
  3. Present to your doctor for testing and potential vacation (only if required)
  4. Report appropriately if injury sustained in the workplace

It takes between three and six months for hepatitis B and hepatitis C to show up on a blood test. This is referred to as the window period. If you have been exposed to blood, semen or vaginal fluid, where you think there is a risk for transmission see your family doctor to begin the process of baseline testing. This is testing for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C at the time of the incident. This shows if you have any of these viruses, and also if you have the hepatitis B vaccination.

What do I do…if I have hep C?

If you have ever injected drugs, been in prison or had a tattoo, you should get tested for hepatitis C.

Even if you experimented with injecting drugs many years or decades ago, you could have hepatitis C and not know it.

Testing for hepatitis C is two easy blood tests. The first one is the antibody test that tells you if you have ever come into contact with hepatitis C. If the antibody test is negative, that means you have never been infected with hepatitis C.

The second test is a PCR test which means that you currently have hepatitis C. If your results come back and you have hepatitis C, then the good news is there is a cure for hepatitis C.

What do I do…if I want to get treated for hepatitis C?

There is a cure for hepatitis C and it has a 95% success rate.

Treatment it is usually one tablet a day for 12 weeks. Your doctor is able to prescribe this treatment and you can fill your script at any pharmacy.

Even if you are currently injecting drugs you are still able to access this treatment.

The Kombi Clinic is a mobile hepatitis C that is taking the cure to the people. This one-stop shop for hep C testing and treatment, currently visits various locations across Brisbane’s Southside. Check out the Kombi Clinic Facebook page for locations and dates or contact our Infoline on 1800 437 222.

Check out HEPnav for pharmacy locations and doctors.

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