Got questions about life with diabetes? So do we! That’s why we provide our weekly diabetes information column, Ask D’Mine, hosted by veteran type 1 and diabetes author Wil Dubois.
This week, Wil is taking on the tough topic of Hepatitis C and diabetes. This can be a tricky one, as Hep C may be spread as a sexually transmitted disease (STD) but may also be spread through needles — you know, such as those used by most people with diabetes.
Kelly, type 1 in Rhode Island, writes: I have some friends who are IV drug users and they explained that you can get Hep C from your own needle nobody else has ever used earlier if you do not bleach it before reusing it or even if it gets rusty. This didn’t sound right to mepersonally, but since I know nothing of the hobby I said. Is this true?
Wil@Ask D’Mine replies: You are correct and your IV drug-using buddies are mistaken. Hep C is a virus — and also an extremely infectious individual — but it goes back to the family of blood-borne pathogens. It may just spread through blood-to-blood contact.
Blood-to-blood means that infected blood has to come into contact and combine with your clean blood vessels to carry the virus. Not that I advocate it, but you could literally soak your hands in Hep C-infected bloodstream and, so long as the skin was intact with no additional wounds, you would not catch the virus. It has to pass from blood.
Nevertheless, in regards to actual blood-to-blood contact, how much blood is necessary? According into the World Health Organization, hardly any. Viruses are crazy-small, thus a boatload of them may be found in even the smallest droplets of blood. However, the virus does not come out of atmosphere, so if you don’t have Hep C and you are the only one that utilizes — and reuses — a syringe, there’s no way to “catch” Hep C from it. Rusty or not.
You may, however, catch something else from your personal rusty needle. More on that in a minute. But let’s end up with hepatitis C first.
Hep C is a liver disorder. It may trigger and sometimes direct to liver disease. Globally, 71 million people are currently living with chronic hepatitis C, with 399,000 people dying annually from this disease.
The good news, at least for people living in “first world” nations, is the latest antiviral meds have a cure rate of more than 95 percent with greatly reduced side effects compared to the meds used only a few short decades back. That said, in my view, not getting Hep C is still the best bet.
But if you still wish to get in on the action, the simplest way to find Hep C is by utilizing a “filthy” needle that someone who has Hep C has employed. In this case, what you’d do is actually injecting a small amount of another user’s blood into your body, basically main-lining the virus right into you. For what it is worth, the classic “filthy” needle may actually look sparkly clean to the naked eye, but nevertheless contain more than sufficient Hep C virus in micro droplets of blood to infect the next person who uses it. And the person then.
For more than you’d think.
Hep C is called a “hardy” virus, and studies are mixed about the effectives of this bleach your buddies mentioned in murdering it. Apparently it could live up to 63 days at a used syringe. Tough little sons of bitches.
Oh, and you can also catch Hep C through unscreened blood transfusions, from organ transplant prior to 1992, contaminated medical equipment, filthy piercing or tattoo parlors, and less commonly, though gender–depending on the kind of sex you like. Scientists have studied sex and Hep C broadly–and why would not you if you could find a grant to get it done? –and also have discovered that heterosexual transmission of Hep C is rare.
Approximately 1 at 190,000 shags, although the danger goes up the more sex partners you have and the rougher you enjoy your sex.
Boy-on-boy contact, in contrast, was described as “much more efficient” when it comes to distributing the virus. Although I couldn’t find a per sex activity rate to help you judge your hazard, Hep C at bi and gay men is being described as an epidemic.
So much for the way you can get it. How do you not get it? You can not get Hep C by kissing someone with it — that the virus lives in blood, not saliva — or through food, water, as well as breast milk. Or, as we said, on needles from air that is thin you use yourself.
Among the challenges of Hep C, from the public health standpoint, is that as many as 80% of people infected do not develop any definitive symptoms, so they have no way to know they have it before liver damage shows up several years after. Obviously, that doesn’t block the virus from being spread from the unsuspecting victim to other people in the meantime.
But back to a rusty needle. It is possible to get tetanus from among those. Contrary to Hep C, which can be a virus, tetanus is a bacterial disease. Tetanus is serious shit. It affects nerves, triggering muscle contractions in the jaw and throat, hence it’s common name: Lockjaw. Untreated, it may kill you. For all those members of this crowd, it does so. These muscle contractions get so poor that they obstruct the capability to breathe. It’s not curable, but it is preventable with a vaccine, which can be just good for approximately 10 years, so you may wish to think about a booster if it’s been some time since your last vaccination.
The tetanus germs, technically known as Clostridium tetani, usually live in dirt, dust, and animal feces, which explains why stepping onto an old nail at a construction site on a ranch is the traditional way to get exposed. That said, based into the Mayo Clinic you could also catch tetanus from injection drug use (along with gunshot wounds, apparently).
So your IV drug-using buddies could be right about catching something from rusty syringes. They simply had the wrong disorder.
This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs publicly and openly sharing the wisdom of our accumulated experiences — our been-there-done-that understanding in the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are just a small portion of your total prescription. You still need the professional guidance, therapy, and maintenance of a licensed medical practitioner.
Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.
This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and does not adhere to Healthline’s editorial guidelines. To learn more about Healthline’s partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.
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