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Remember when we said that Hep C can live outside the body for 4 days? Yeah, try six weeks

Remember when we said that Hep C can live outside the body for 4 days? Yeah, try six weeks

This is pretty disturbing that the life cycle of Hep C, once thought to be only four days outside the body is now found to be almost a month and a half:

A recent study by researchers from the Yale Schools of Medicine and Public Health revealed that the hepatitis C virus (HCV) can remain infectious for up to 6 weeks on surfaces at room temperature—resulting in a much longer period for potential transmission than was previously appreciated.  Prior to this study, scientists believed that HCV could survive for up to four (4) days on surfaces outside of the body. These findings have implications for the safety of patients and workers in healthcare settings as well as for reducing viral hepatitis transmission associated with drug use—both of which are priority areas outlined in the national Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis.

“Our findings clearly demonstrate that strict infection control practices and universal precautions are needed in the clinical setting to avoid contact with infectious agents such as HCV that can survive on surfaces,” noted study co-author Professor Robert Heimer of the Yale School of Public Health in a release  announcing the study findings. “The implications go beyond the clinic to the risk environment of people who use syringes outside of medical care settings. Unsafe practices, such as sharing of syringes by people who inject drugs or careless handling of human blood during home delivery of intravenous medications, can lead to HCV transmission.”

Implications for Preventing Healthcare-Associated HCV Transmission

The study, funded by the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), was designed to evaluate the risk of HCV transmission after infectious material dried on environmental surfaces—as might occur in an improperly cleaned blood spill.  The investigators found that HCV remained potentially infectious for prolonged periods of time—in some cases as long as six (6) weeks.

This new study supports previous findings indicating that strict adherence to infection control standards and universal precautions are essential to prevent transmission of hepatitis C in healthcare settings.  Hepatitis C has been transmitted through improperly used intravenous catheters, blood lancets, and blood glucose monitors.  The new Yale study highlights the importance of educating healthcare facility staff, and others who might come in contact with infected blood, on procedures to avoid transmission of HCV and other bloodborne pathogens. The researchers found that commercially available antiseptics (i.e., bleach, CaviCide®, and alcohol) reduce HCV infectiousness on surfaces when used at the recommended concentrations, but not when diluted.

I’m bringing attention to this one because of the carnage that Hep C brings to the IV drug using community, and the complications it wreaks when (or if) that person becomes HIV positive.

Far more at the link.

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