This is part of a continuing series about STI's and prevention as it relates to non- monogamy. Please see my other articles for more information.
Hepatitis B and C are viral infections that cause liver problems. The viruses can cause short term illness in some people, but they can also lead to liver damage, cancer and death. Most people have no symptoms for many years until their liver is severely damaged. They can pass on the virus even though they have no symptoms.
Most cases of Hepatitis C result from IV drug use, but the virus can be transmitted through sexual contact. The risk for sexual transmission is believed to be low.
Most cases of Hepatitis B are spread through sex. The virus is 50 -100 times more contagious than HIV.
These viruses are not spread through casual contact.
Nationally, 800,000 to 1.4 million people have Hepatitis B and 3.2 million people have Hepatitis C.
Who should be tested for Hepatitis C:
People with symptoms of liver problems (jaundice – yellow skin, vomiting, fever, or high liver enzyme tests)
Anyone who has injected drugs
People who received blood products before 1992
There are medications to help the body fight chronic hepatitis and resulting liver cancer. Some people also undergo successful liver transplants.
There is a vaccine for Hepatitis B. All babies now receive the series. Healthcare workers and many foreign travelers also routinely receive the vaccine.
Anyone who is not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship (I'm looking at you, swingers!!) should be vaccinated for Hepatitis B. It is a series of 3 shots. Your Dr may want to test to see if you already have Hepatitis B or have immunity before giving you the vaccine.
Condoms are impenetrable by Hepatitis viruses.