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Prevention

Injecting drug use

To reduce the risk of hepatitis C transmission, it is important that people who inject drugs do not share or re-use needles, tourniquets, spoons, swabs, water or any other equipment, even when no blood is visible. Special care should be taken when injecting occurs in groups, or when people are being assisted to inject by others. Label or mark your syringe. People should thoroughly wash their hands in warm soapy water before and immediately after injecting (if this is impossible, use single wipes with new swabs instead). It is important that when using in groups or injecting others, that people do not recap someone else’s needles. Everyone should be encouraged to manage sharps in a safe manner by disposing of all equipment in an approved disposal container (available from your needle and syringe program).

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Body art and piercing 

Anyone considering a piercing or a tattoo should make sure that their tattoo artist or body-piercer uses infection control precautions, which means using single-use disposable needles, dye tubs, surgical gloves, and so on. Customers have the right to ask the practitioner about their infection control procedures. It is particularly important to check these things if you are getting a tattoo while overseas. In Australia, practitioners are legally required to apply infection control procedures.
Some tattoo shops may ask clients to disclose their hepatitis C status. This practice is unlawful and no one is obliged to disclose their status if they do not wish to do so. It is the responsibility of the practitioner to take infection control precautions for every customer.

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Mother to baby 

Delivery techniques may be slightly modified in order to minimise any damage to the baby’s skin (not using forceps or scalp electrodes) and so minimise the risk of transmission of hepatitis C from mother to baby during the birth. For this reason, mothers who have hepatitis C may wish to inform those involved in the birth (such as midwives, doctors, etc) of their status, and those who believe they may have been exposed to hepatitis C in the past may wish to be tested prior to delivery.

Blood spills at home or at the workplace 

When wiping up blood spills, it is advisable to wear gloves, use paper towels and scrub the spill with lukewarm soapy water. Cuts and abrasions should be covered.

All workplaces are legally required to apply infection control procedures, in which any blood spills are treated as potentially infectious and are dealt with in a safe manner. These procedures should be outlined in workplace health and safety policies. People concerned about blood borne virus transmission in the workplace can contact their health and safety officer, their union, or Hepatitis Victoria for more information.

In all medical settings, standard precautions must be applied to all potentially infectious material. These are precautions that have been developed to make sure that both patients and health care workers are protected from infection as much as possible. Therefore, all bodily fluids are treated as infectious and there is NO need for anyone to disclose his or her viral status since no special precautions are required.

All medical equipment is either sterilized before use with each patient or is only for single use, while gloves and other protective gear will be used to prevent staff to patient infection. In addition, many exposed surfaces will have protective coverings on them, which are replaced for each patient. People concerned about blood borne virus transmission in a health care setting should ask the medical staff about their infection control procedures.

Read more at our Resource Directory.