How is Hepatitis C Transmitted or Spread?

Hepatitis C is transmitted or spread when the blood from a Hepatitis C-infected person enters the bloodstream of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with HCV by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before 1992, when screening donated blood and organs for Hepatitis C was not standard in the United States, the disease was commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.

Hepatitis C can be transmitted through sex between a man and a woman, but the risk is low. Therefore, condoms are not routinely recommended for monogamous, heterosexual couples. The risk of Hepatitis C transmission is higher with unprotected anal sex between two men; using condoms will decrease this risk. All people with multiple sex partners should use condoms to reduce the risk of getting Hepatitis C and/or HIV.

Hepatitis C may be spread if there is a breakdown in the skin or lining of the mouth.  Therefore, sharing of toothbrushes, razor blades and nail clippers is not recommended.


Hepatitis C transmission happens only through exposure to an infected person’s blood. It is not contagious like the common cold. You cannot get, or give, Hepatitis C by:

  • Kissing
  • Hugging
  • Holding hands
  • Casual contact
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Sharing eating utensils
  • Sharing food or drink
  • Breastfeeding (unless nipples are cracked and bleeding)

Click here for more information on how you can prevent the spread or transmission of Hepatitis C.


This page has been updated and medically reviewed September 2015.