Hepatitis C Fact Sheet
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What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection caused by a virus. The virus causes damage to the liver that may result in chronic infection and disease. Hepatitis C is unrelated to any of the other known hepatitis viruses (A, B, D and E). Infection is identified when antibodies to the virus are found in the blood. Unlike many infections, the presence of antibodies does not mean recovery. More than 85 percent of infected individuals never fully recover from hepatitis C and develop chronic infections.
How can I catch hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C can be contracted through the transmission of infected blood or body fluids by transfusions, needle sharing, sexual intercourse or from an infected mother to her child. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the adoption of stricter and more reliable blood screening methods in 1992 has reduced the risk of transmission of hepatitis C via blood transfusions to less than one per million units of transfused blood.
Most acutely and chronically infected people are relatively free of physical symptoms and may not be aware of being infected. However, some patients with hepatitis C may feel like they have the flu. Hepatitis C causes liver damage, and the extent of the liver damage can only be determined by a liver biopsy. Symptoms of liver damage may not be apparent for several years and by the time liver disease is diagnosed, the damage can be considerable and even irreversible. End-stage liver disease, cirrhosis and primary liver cancer may be the result.
Hepatitis C is treated with a combination of PEG-interferon and ribavirin which is intended to achieve a sustained elimination of hepatitis C virus from the blood circulation. If you have hepatitis C for many years, you may also need surgery. Over time, hepatitis C can cause your liver to stop working. If this happens, you will need a liver transplant in which you receive a healthy donor liver to replace your damaged liver.
UK HealthCare Digestive Health Program
UK HealthCare Transplant Center
Hepatitis Foundation International
American Liver Foundation