Hepatitis or inflammation of the liver can be caused by viruses, medication, toxins, excessive alcohol intake but most commonly by viruses named Hepatitis A, B or C. Hepatitis A and B can be prevented by vaccination but there is no vaccine available to prevent Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease which results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. It is transmitted through contaminated blood, as when sharing needles or through blood transfusion prior to 1992 (since 1992 all blood and blood products have been screened for Hepatitis C). It may also be transmitted through sexual intercourse, though not as frequently as for Hepatitis B virus or HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).
Acute Hepatitis is a short lived illness which may have no symptoms or cause symptoms such as nausea, jaundice, abdominal pain, fatigue and fever. Unfortunately, about 60-70% of infected individuals will progress to Chronic Hepatitis, some of whom will develop cirrosis and /or liver cancer. Although Hepatis C infection may not produce symptoms and decades can pass before symptoms of chronic liver disease may develop, infected individuals are still contagious. It is thought that half of all people infected with Hepatitis C do not know they are infected- the only way to find out, is to get tested. Treatment stops the progress of liver disease and lowers the possibility of transmission.
- Hepatitis C is the most common bloodborne infection in the US with estimates between 2.7-3.9 million people living with the disease.
- Baby boomers account for 75% of those infected in the US.
- 80% of patients with hepatitis C have no symptoms.
- 80% will have chronic infection
For more information about Hepatitis C visit: https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/index.htm