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Hepatitis C is a type of liver disease that can spread from person to person. Unprotected vaginal and anal sex can lead to contracting sexually transmitted infections STIs , but people may wonder if the same applies to oral sex. Hepatitis C is a viral disease and is contagious — is it possible to contract hepatitis C from oral sex? Overall, the risk of transmitting hepatitis C during any type of sexual activity is low. While highly unlikely, it could happen during oral sex if a person with hepatitis C has cracked and bleeding lips and the partner has an open wound. Just under , people die from hepatitis C-related liver diseases every year. Hepatitis C damages the liver cells, causing inflammation and scarring known as fibrosis, as well as liver cirrhosis. It can also cause liver cancer and liver failure. Currently, there is no direct evidence to prove that hepatitis C is transmitted through oral sex alone.
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The disease can be passed from person to person. As with many infections, HCV lives in blood and bodily fluids. It can also be transmitted by contact with bodily fluids including saliva or semen of an infected person, but this is rare. Researchers in one study found that 1 out of every , instances of heterosexual sexual contact led to HCV transmission. Participants in the study were in monogamous sexual relationships.
Fortunately, there are several measures people can take to protect themselves from this potentially life-threatening disease. HCV is a blood-borne disease, that is, it is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact. Any activity that lets one person's blood or body fluids to come into contact with another person's blood or mucous membranes can potentially transmit HCV. However, some activities are much more likely than others to spread the virus. HCV can be transmitted by sharing equipment for injection and non-injection drugs for example, needles, cookers, cocaine straws, and crack pipes. Needles used for tattooing, body piercing, and acupuncture may also spread HCV.