News Release, January 17, 2013

Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton (BACE) reminder:

Hepatitis C is not transmitted via breastmilk

News outlets today in Edmonton are reporting a $3M lawsuit has been filed by a family against a hospital and its staff. The suit alleges a baby accidentally received the breastmilk of another mother while at an Edmonton hospital. The reports say that mother later tested positive for Hepatitis C, and the family suffered anguish because of concern that their baby may have become infected with Hepatitis C.

News outlets are reporting the allegations have not been proven in court.

The Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton (BACE) would like to reassure mothers that medical experts including the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) know that Hepatitis C is not transmitted through breastmilk. In general disease transmission via breastmilk is very rare.

Specifically, the CDC says: “HCV is transmitted by infected blood, not by human breast milk.”  

PHAC says: “Currently, there is no evidence that breast milk is a means of transmitting the disease…

Mothers who are breastfeeding their own babies and who are Hepatitis C positive are advised by the CDC and PHAC to continue to breastfeeding. The CDC and PHAC offer advice about temporary precautions mothers may wish to take if they have a nipple injury, while clearly stating there has never been a case of Hepatitis C transmitted by breastfeeding, and that studies show it is highly unlikely.

BACE feels it is unfortunate that any family would be made to feel anxious about HepC transmission via breastmilk. We hope that by providing this information we can reassure concerned families and help increase understanding that the risk of illness or disease from breastmilk is very low  - less risky than other alternatives such as infant formula.

Kirsten Goa