[Question #6833] Hepatitis C?

12 months ago
Hello Doctor,

I am worried about passing on Hepatitis C to my girlfriend. On several occasions I have touched urine from an infant/toddler's diaper with my hand (don't know if there was blood in the urine or not). I would then wash my hands with soap and water afterwards. I would then go home and finger my girlfriend. I am really worried that I might have given her tiny tears or cuts in the vagina while fingering her and that the urine I touched from the diaper had traces of blood in it. Is there a way she could've gotten Hepatitis C infection from this? Does she need to get tested? 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
12 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your confidence in our services.

The bottom line is that there is almost no chance you will infect your partner, even with unprotected sex, and absolutely no risk to the young child in your life. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) isn't transmitted by hand contact or in diaper changing. In the event you have a freshly bleeding wound of some sort, of course you should keep the wound bandaged and clean and avoid direct contact with the child if there is any chance exposing him or her to fresh blood. A little dried blood is risk free. Also, any parent or caregiver should wash hands with soap and water before changing diapers (although there would be little risk of HCV transmission if you forget from time to time.).

As for your girlfriend, HCV actually isn't an STD at all. Public media, and even many mostly competent health information resources, have over emphasized sexual transmission. In fact, the only proved scenario in which sexual transmission is common is among men having sex with men who participate in potentially traumatic anal sex practices (i.e. with potential bleeding). Even after years of unprotected intercourse, the spouses of heterosexual men or women with HCV are no more likely to have HCV than anyone else in the general population (assuming the couple are not also sharing drug injection equipment). A research group in Europe (Denmark? Netherlands?) recently calculated the apparent risk from unprotected vaginal sex, if one partner has HCV, as once for every 190,000 exposures. That's equivalent to unprotected sex once daily for 520 years before transmission might be likely. One reason is that, unlike hepatitis B -- which is much more easily transmitted sexually -- HCV is rarely present in genital fluids like semen or female genital secretions.

The main way for you to protect your girlfriend from your HCV infection is to not use drugs by injection; or if either of you is into injection drug use, you never share needles or other injection equipment. Don't share razors. The near zero sexual risk for your girlfriend will be reduced to true zero with consistent condom use -- but even without condoms, she would be at little or no risk.  If you have any sort of bleeding wound, your partner needs to stay clear; or if contact (e.g. if she helps you dress a wound), wear gloves and/or wash her hands afterward. 

I hope you're in medical care for your HCV. You probably know that effective treatment is available for most cases. Discuss with your doctor if you haven't already done so. In the meantime, don't be worried about sexual transmission or other transmission in the household. The risks are extremely low.

I hope this information is helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD
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12 months ago
I think there has been some misunderstanding about my question. I myself do not have hepatitis c. I have diaper fetish and would often go play with used infant/toddler diapers from the trash which contained urine. I was scared that the urine from the diaper had hepatitis C in it and that I will pass it on to my girlfriend when I fingered her. I did wash my hands after touching the urine in the diaper, not sure if soap and water would kill the hepatitis C virus or not.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
12 months ago
Sorry I misnderstood, but the opening line certainly suggests you are infected and were asking how to protect your gf from catching it.

Any and all infection risk from this sort of fetish would be prevented by hand washing after contact and by keeping the diapers away from your face. In the event you don't wash (but why wouldn't you?), by far the main infection risk is for various enteric (intestinal) infections, especially viral gastroenteritis and also including hepatitis A. If this habit continues and you haven't been vaccinated against hep A I would strongly encourage you to do that. There is little or no risk of hepatitis B or C from diaper contact. In any case, for sure there would be no risk of transmission to a sex partner by hand-genital contact if you wash afterward.
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12 months ago
Thank You Doctor for clarifying and the quick reply. 

Just curious, does soap and water kill hepatitis C virus on my hands and under my nails? Some people say it doesn't while some say it does
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
12 months ago
To my knowledge, soap is highly effective against HCV. Whether or not it is really doesn't matter, however, Ignore the biology of the situation:  what does or does not kill the virus, how much virus it take to transmit, etc. What we know is there is no known risk of hepatitis C other than direct blood contact. Use common sense hygiene then stop all worry about hep C or anything else related to your fetish.

That completes the two follow-up comments and replies included with each question and so ends this thread. I hope the discussion has been helpful.
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