[Question #4500] HEP C on surfaces

27 months ago
Dear Experts
This is a general question. I need to clear something up about HEP C if I may, and in particular-how long it survives on surfaces. I travel a lot, so that is why, mostly, I am curious. 
I have read that HEP C survives on surfaces for maximum of 4 days , but also came across the information which states it may survive for up to 6 weeks. Which worried me since I would sometimes use towels provided by hotels etc. I use them to wipe my intimate parts etc. I know towels must be washed, but my recent incident suggests housekeeping may not always do the job as they should. Does it mean I need to pack my own towels from now on if Hep C survives for up to 6 weeks. Thank you

Here is the info:

"The first study that looked at the time that HCV could live on surfaces was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the time a cell culture was not available so a chimpanzee—the only other animal that could be infected with HCV—was inoculated with HCV. The chimpanzee’s blood was dried (7 days, 4 days and overnight) and reconstituted. It was found that the hepatitis C virus could survive on surfaces for at least 16 hours but no longer than 4 days.1 In a study released in 2013, Yale researchers found that the hepatitis C virus could live on surfaces for up to six weeks at room temperature (39.2 to 71.6 Fahrenheit)"
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
27 months ago
Welcome to the Forum.  I will try to help.  It is clear from a number of scientific studies that hepatitis C can survive and remain infectious outside of the body for several days and, in the right circumstances for as long as 6 weeks.  This fact is more frightening to some people than others.  The fact that the virus survives outside the body does not mean that the virus is transmitted to any significant extent through contact with contaminated surfaces or material such as towels, etc.  Things like drying, exposure to temperatures that are less than body temperature (37 degrees C), and that the virus cannot access the blood stream from such surfaces virtually eliminate the likelihood of infection from environmental exposures of the sort you describe.  Further, over time viral particles diminish in number outside of the body as well.  Thus while careful scientific studies using the most sensitive methods possible show that the virus can remain viable outside the body for several (up to six) weeks, the FACT is that virtually no infections are transmitted in this way.  I too travel a great deal and would have no concerns whatsoever about a risk of hepatitis C from staying in a room where the towels, bath sheets or toilet seat for instance were contaminated.  Virtually all experts agree- environmental exposure of the sort you describe is just not a risk factor for acquiring the infection.  

I hope this helps.  I would leave your towels at home. EWH
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27 months ago
Thank you! So on a towel it would not live longer than a couple of days, correct?
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
27 months ago
There is absolutely no evidence that hepatitis C could be acquired as a result of using a towel contaminated by someone who had used it.  This is not a concern. EWH---