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How long can hepatitis C live outside the body?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on Sep 1, 2021.

Official answer

by Drugs.com

Hepatitis C virus can live outside the body on surfaces for up to 6 weeks at room temperature. The long survival time of hepatitis C on surfaces is mainly a risk for people in medical settings and injection drug users who share needles or other drug material with an infected person. This virus is spread by contact with the blood of an infected person.

  • Since the 1970s, the most common way hepatitis virus has been spread is through injection drug use. Up to 90% of people who inject drugs and share needles or drug material with others have been exposed to hepatitis C.
  • Survival of hepatitis C virus on surfaces can also increase the length of infection risk in health care settings. This can happen if blood spills are not cleaned properly or if any materials that come in contact with blood, such as catheters or blood glucose monitors, are not properly disinfected or sterilized.
  • Survival outside the body could also be important for other ways that hepatitis C can be spread. This may include getting a tattoo or body piercing by someone who does not use sterile techniques and materials, or using a razor, nail clipper or toothbrush of a person who is infected with hepatitis C.

You cannot get infected from hepatitis C by drinking water or eating food.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver damage. Untreated hepatitis can lead to liver failure or liver cancer.

References
  1. HIV.gov. Scientists Discover Hepatitis C Virus Can Remain Infectious Outside of the Body for Up to 6 Weeks. January 2014. Available at: https://www.hiv.gov/blog/scientists-discover-hepatitis-c-virus-can-remain-infectious-outside-of-the-body-for-up-to-6-weeks. [Accessed August 12, 2021].
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Hepatitis C. March 2020. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/viral-hepatitis/hepatitis-c. [Accessed August 10, 2021].
  3. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease. October 2018. Available at: https://www.hepatitis.va.gov/hcv/background/transmission-modes.asp#S1X. [Accessed August 11, 2021].

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