According to the World Health Organization, around 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C in the world. This liver disease is caused by a bloodborne pathogen known as the hepatitis C virus. For some individuals, this is a short-term illness, while for others it becomes a chronic, long-term infection.

The most common way that people become infected is through exposure to small amounts of blood. This might happen through unsafe health care, unsafe injection practices, or a number of other occurrences.

If you work in an environment where you could be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids, it’s important to learn about bloodborne pathogens to help reduce your risk of becoming infected. Bloodborne pathogens training is a course you can take to help you avoid hepatitis C and respond appropriately in circumstances where you may have been exposed.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about hepatitis C, bloodborne pathogens, and bloodborne pathogens training and certification.

What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a condition that leads to liver inflammation and infection. This disease develops after the hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been transmitted.

A person can either have acute hepatitis C or chronic hepatitis C. A person with the acute type of this disorder typically have symptoms that come on quickly and last for several weeks.

Chronic hepatitis C, on the other hand, has symptoms that develop over the course of months or even years.

In the United State, the most common forms of hepatitis are hepatitis A, B, and C. There isn’t a vaccine for hepatitis C at this point, but there is a vaccine for both hepatitis A and B.

Hepatitis C Symptoms

The symptoms of hepatitis C do not necessarily appear right away. A person can still transmit the virus if they have an HCV infection, even if they aren’t displaying any symptoms. Some of the symptoms of this infection include:

  • Dark urine
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Jaundice

Acute hepatitis C infections typically occur sometime within six months after a person has come into contact with the HCV virus. These cases usually only last a few weeks and are typically mild.

On the other hand, more than half the time hepatitis C can become chronic. If left untreated, a person could suffer from this disease for the entirety of their life. Other long-term health problems can result from chronic hepatitis C, including liver cancer and liver damage.

It isn’t uncommon for people with chronic hepatitis C to have no symptoms and to not feel sick at all. What this means is that when symptoms finally do appear, they often do so as symptoms of advanced liver disease.

Avoiding behaviors that put you at risk for contracting the disease is the best way to prevent hepatitis C. Since hepatitis C treatment can cure most people with the disease in eight to twelve weeks, it’s important to get tested for hepatitis C and catch it early if you do become infected.

What Are the Causes of Hepatitis C?

Even if you’ve had HCV before, you can still contract the virus again. It is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact with an individual who has an HCV infection.

Some of the ways that HCV is passed between people include:

  • Sharing items like toothbrushes or razors
  • Organ transplants
  • Sexual contact if blood is exchanged
  • Childbirth (A mother with hepatitis C can pass it to her baby)
  • Sharing needles
  • Getting a piercing or tattoo with equipment that isn’t sterile

Some people are at a higher risk for transmission with HCV than others. These people include those who:

  • Were born to a mother who had hepatitis C
  • Received a blood transfusion before 1992
  • Received hemodialysis treatment for a long period of time
  • Had an organ transplant prior to 1992
  • Had a sexual partner who had hepatitis C
  • Received blood products such as clotting factor concentrates before 1987
  • Have used previously-used needles

Hepatitis is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, but people sometimes mistakenly assume it can also be spread through touch or through the air. You cannot transmit hepatitis C by kissing, hugging, or sharing food. It also can’t be transmitted through coughing or through getting bit by a mosquito.

Hepatitis C Treatment

Some people might have immune systems that are able to fight off HCV infection without the need for treatment or medication. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 30% of people with the acute type of hepatitis C will recover without treatment within six months.

The WHO also states that over 95% of diagnoses can be cured by antiviral medication. This type of treatment is relatively new and typically takes between three to six months.

Medications are usually effective for people who’s immune systems cannot get rid of the infection alone. In the past, people would have to get weekly injections to treat hepatitis C. These injections often had a long-list of unpleasant side effects. More recently, hepatitis C has been treated with antiviral medications that cause less side effects and can be taken in the form of a pill.

Direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) are used to help prevent liver damage and fully remove the virus from a person’s body. Some of the brand name DAAs include:

  • Epclusa
  • Zepatier
  • Vosevi
  • Harvoni
  • Mavyret

When you visit your doctor, they will be able to determine your genotype to determine which treatment options are best for you.

What Are Bloodborne Pathogens?

Pathogens are viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms that can lead to disease. Bloodborne pathogens are any infectious microorganisms in human blood that can spread disease through contamination by blood. There are three bloodborne pathogens that are of particular concern to health workers, which are HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

A number of blood-borne diseases can also be contracted through other means. This can include intravenous drug use and high-risk sexual behavior.

Clinical or laboratory settings are places where blood poses the greatest threat to health. This is due to injuries that result from needlesticks, which often occur due to improper disposal of needles.

Standard medical practice regards all blood as well as any bodily fluids to be potentially infectious. This is because it can be very difficult to identify which pathogens are contained in any given blood sample and because some of these diseases can be lethal.

You can learn more about some of the most common bloodborne pathogens here.

What Is Bloodborne Pathogen Training?

When your job puts you at risk for exposure to blood and other bodily fluids, it’s essential to learn as much as possible about bloodborne pathogens. When you take a course in bloodborne pathogen training, you learn:

  • How bloodborne pathogens are spread
  • How to avoid exposure to bloodborne pathogens
  • What to do if exposed to infectious material
  • How to teach and train your employees

Who needs bloodborne pathogen training?

All people whose occupation puts them at risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens should receive bloodborne pathogen training. This could include workers in a wide variety of fields, including healthcare professionals, first responders, nurses, and housekeeping personnel. In fact, bloodborne pathogens can even be spread in retail settings.

What Is Bloodborne Pathogens Certification?

After completing bloodborne pathogen training, individuals receive a Bloodborne Pathogens Training certification. This certification is valid for one year after it is received.

In order to renew your certificate, you must be re-trained annually. In order to comply with the BBP training requirements of OSHA, records need to be retained for 3 years after the employee was trained. These records can be kept either electronically or on paper, but either way, employers must store them in a way where they can access them easily.

Should You Sign Up For Bloodborne Pathogens Training?

There is no way to know whether contracting hepatitis C would be acute or chronic in any given individual. While it can result in only mild, short-term symptoms for some people, for others it can have long-term negative health effects and can even be fatal. For this reason, it’s best to be knowledgeable about how to avoid exposure to HCV infections as well as other bloodborne pathogens.

If you work in an industry where you are exposed to blood or other bodily fluids, bloodborne pathogens training can help give you the information you need to confidently and safely do your job. When you are able to identify hazards in your workplace, it’s the best chance you have of avoiding exposure to potentially harmful pathogens.