Blood Borne Viruses
Blood borne viruses live in some people's blood and can make you very sick.
Sometimes people who have these viruses do not have any symptoms or look sick.
If their blood comes into contact with your blood you can get the virus.
Without treatment, BBV's can impact on your overall health.
Types of BBV
Hepatitis means your liver has become inflamed. Hepatitis can be caused by viruses, alcohol consumption, drugs and some chemicals.
- Hepatitis A is spread mainly through eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by the faeces of an infected person. There have been some outbreaks associated with eating contaminated shellfish.
- Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids (for example semen and vaginal fluid) of an infected person. It can also be passed on from mother to child during childbirth.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is a virus that damages the immune system, which makes the body vulnerable to other diseases and infections.
HIV is most commonly spread when having unprotected sex or sharing needles and other injecting equipment.
AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome and is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.
BBVs are passed from person to person through contact with someone else's blood.
There are a number of ways that you can come into contact with someone else's blood:
- Unsafe injecting drug use
- Unsterile tattooing, especially overseas
- Not using protection during sex
- Sharing some personal hygiene items (eg. razors, toothbrushes etc)
- Needle stick injury - being pricked by a needle
- Unsafe body piercing (unsterile environment or equipment)
It is important to eat healthy, exercise regularly and decrease your alcohol, tobacco and other drug use to keep healthy and stay strong. It is also important to keep yourself safe:
- Do not share injecting equipment
- Do not share razors, toothbrushes, dental floss, nail scissors, mouth guards and water bottles
- Do not drink or swim in contaminated water.
- Blood spills need to be cleaned up immediately with bleach or cold water and detergent.
- If you play contact sport such as football, blood rules apply. Players must immediately leave the field and get wounds dressed and change jumpers.
- Try to avoid getting into physical fights.
- Always use protection during sexual encounters (eg. Condoms or PrEP).
- Vaccinate against Hepatitis viruses (A and B).
A highly effective treatment has been available for Hepatitis C since 2016. These medications are called Direct Acting Antivirals and are 98% effective.
Children born to mothers infected with Hepatitis B should also be vaccinated within 12 months of birth.
A variety of antiviral drugs are available which slow the virus and occasionally result in its clearance.
It is important to remember that all Hepatitis viruses are caused by different viruses, they are spread in different ways and therefore require different treatments. This means that prior infection with one type of virus won't offer any immunity against the others.
There is currently no treatment or cure for HIV, but there is medication available for people who are HIV-positive which can assist in managing the virus.
For more information on testing for a blood borne virus or to get a vaccination for Hepatitis B contact your local GP or Hepatitis WA.