Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a viral disease that leads to swelling (inflammation) of the liver

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Hepatitis C infection is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). People who may be at risk for hepatitis C are those who:

  • Have been on long-term kidney dialysis
  • Have regular contact with blood at work (for instance, as a health care worker)
  • Have unprotected sexual contact with a person who has hepatitis C (this is much less common, but the risk is higher for those who have many sex partners, already have a sexually transmitted disease, or are infected with HIV)
  • Inject street drugs or share a needle with someone who has hepatitis C
  • Received a blood transfusion before July 1992
  • Received a tattoo or acupuncture with contaminated instruments (the risk is very low with licensed, commercial tattoo facilities)
  • Received blood, blood products, or solid organs from a donor who has hepatitis C
  • Share personal items such as toothbrushes and razors with someone who has hepatitis C (less common)
  • Were born to a hepatitis C-infected mother (this occurs in about 1 out of 20 babies born to mothers with HCV, which is much less common than with hepatitis B)

Hepatitis C has an acute and chronic form. Most people who are infected with the virus develop chronic hepatitis C.

About 1.5% of the U.S. population is infected with HCV.

Symptoms

Most people who were recently infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms. About 10% have jaundice that gets better.

Of people who get infected with HCV, most develop chronic HCV infection. Usually there are no symptoms.

If the infection has been present for many years, the liver may be permanently scarred, a condition called cirrhosis. In many cases, there may be no symptoms of the disease until cirrhosis has developed.

Additional information available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001329/

Helpful Links