Information for relatives of hepatitis patients

A hepatitis infection can severely affect the family environment of the infected person due to the risk of infection and possible psychological effects. In order to cope with the challenges associated with the chronic disease and everyday life with hepatitis carers and relatives can:

  • keep themselves regularly informed (including through contact with healthcare professionals)
  • join a self-help group if necessary
  • find out about their rights and entitlements, including from their employer, in order to adjust their working hours accordingly and maintain a certain quality of life (leisure activities and moments of relaxation).1

The psyche at the centre of attention

Detailed information on hepatitis infections, their progression, available treatment options, and their physical and psychological impact can aid in comprehending the challenges faced by caregivers.

Patients may need psychological help to accept the disease, especially with the hepatitis B and D virus, and to cope with living with hepatitis in everyday life. As a relative and outside “observer” of the course of the disease, you can suggest such help if you consider it necessary.

If you are the patient’s partner, discovering a hepatitis infection can raise specific questions within the couple’s relationship regarding the potential sexual transmission of the virus. It is important to note that several hepatitis infections are asymptomatic and can remain undetected for many years.2 In intimate relationships, concerns about viral transmission or infection can lead to withdrawal and sexual dysfunction, which may require medical or psychological intervention. The use of condoms is expressly recommended in the case of HBV infection.3 As the risk of sexual transmission in the case of HCV infection is low but cannot be completely ruled out, condom use is recommended for sexual contact with frequently changing partners. In stable partnerships with a chronic HCV-positive partner, this decision should be considered on a case-by-case basis.4

Protecting yourself = contributing to the care of a relative

To continue supporting a sick relative, you should be healthy and protect yourself from any risk of infection.

Infection can be transmitted via the blood through contaminated utensils. It is, therefore, essential to observe very strict hygiene measures to avoid sharing razors, toothbrushes and nail scissors (incomplete list) and to pay attention to hygienic conditions when tattooing, piercing or ear piercing.4

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.; last accessed: January 2024.
  2. vfa.portal.; last accessed: January 2024.
  3. Robert Koch Institut (RKI). Hepatitis B und D RKI Ratgeber.; last accessed: January 2024.
  4. Robert Koch Institut (RKI). Hepatitis C RKI Ratgeber.; last accessed: January 2024.