Can Saliva Transmit Hepatitis C?
As the most common chronic blood borne infection in the United States, the concentration of Hepatitis C virus in a drop of infected blood is exponentially higher than the concentration of HIV in a drop of infected blood. This explains why it is important to avoid anything that could possibly be tainted with any amount of blood. While not normally found in urine, semen, vaginal/cervical fluids, feces or saliva, injury or illness may cause some of these substances to be contaminated with blood.
In nearly half the cases of Hepatitis C, the infected individuals cannot identify the source for their infection. While it is believed most cases are due to risk factors involving contaminated blood, there remain unidentified modes of Hepatitis C transmission. Salivary transmission is one potential explanation for many unexplained viral causes.
Tiny and Infectious
Measuring only about 50 nanometers in diameter, Hepatitis C is an extremely small virus. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; 200,000 Hepatitis C viruses placed end to end would only measure a single centimeter. Smaller than the wavelength of visible light, viral particles have no color. In those who are infected, Hepatitis C may produce approximately one trillion new viral particles every day.
Unlike many other viruses (like HIV), any potential source of blood to blood contact seems capable of carrying the Hepatitis C virus. This is true, even if the source is indirect, such as a used razor, making HCV far more transmissible than most other blood borne viruses. As documented by occupational exposure statistics, Hepatitis C is approximately seven times more infectious than HIV.
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