Can I Donate Blood If I Had Hepatitis?

Donations denied for most, but not all, viral types

Woman drawing blood from patient
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According to the American Red Cross, someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion every two seconds, translating to around 36,000 units of blood per day. With such a need, anyone who is willing to give blood should. However, some people can't because of a pre-existing health condition.

One of these is hepatitis. But, don't be mistaken. Despite what people may tell you, this doesn't include all types of hepatitis.

Types of Hepatitis

By definition, hepatitis is simply the inflammation of the liver. While we typically associate it with a communicable virus, it can also be caused by parasites, bacterial infection, alcohol abuse, autoimmune disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

However, the most common causes of hepatitis are viral, chief among these:

  • Hepatitis A, which affects approximately 114 million people in the U.S.
  • Hepatitis B, which affects roughly 343 million Americans
  • Hepatitis C, which accounts for around 142 million U.S. infections

Because of the way each virus is transmitted, people with certain types of viral hepatitis can donate blood while others can't.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is mainly spread by contaminated food and water. If you are infected with hepatitis A, you will likely experience symptoms of the disease (including jaundice, fatigue, and nausea). Once recovered, the virus will be fully cleared from your blood and protective antibodies will remain to prevent future infection.

If you have ever had hepatitis A, there is nothing barring you from donating blood. If, however, you have signs of hepatitis, whatever the cause, you will not be allowed to donate until you have fully recovered.

Hepatitis B and C

Unlike hepatitis A, hepatitis B and C are blood-borne viruses that are highly communicable.

Hepatitis B is mainly spread through sex, shared injecting needles, and mother to child (MTC) transmission during pregnancy. Hepatitis C is primarily transmitted through shared needles and MTC.

If you have ever had hepatitis B or C or tested positive for either, you will not be allowed to donate blood irrespective of whether you have had symptoms of the disease or not.

Other Restrictions

Because viral hepatitis is spread by different means, health authorities have placed the following restrictions on people who may have been potentially exposed to the virus:

  • If you live with someone or have had sex with someone who has hepatitis, you must wait 12 months after the last contact before you can donate.
  • If you have been detained in a facility (juvenile detention, jail, or prison) for more than 72 hours, you must also defer for 12 months from the date of the last detainment.
  • You must also wait 12 months after receiving a blood transfusion (unless it was your own blood) or have been exposed to an unsterile needle (such as through shared needle use or an accidental needlestick injury).

However, according to current guidelines, you can donate blood if you have had non-viral hepatitis from a toxic exposure, drug reaction, or alcohol use so long as there are no symptoms of hepatitis at the time of the donation.

Sources:

American Red Cross. "Donating Blood: Eligibility Criteria." Washington, D.C.

World Health Organization. "What Is Hepatitis?" Geneva, Switzerland; July 2016.

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