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Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. When first infected, a person can develop an "acute" infection, which can range in severity from a very mild illness with few or no symptoms to a serious condition requiring hospitalization.

Acute Hepatitis C is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For reasons that are not known, 15%-25% of people "clear" the virus without treatment. Approximately 75%-85% of people who become infected with the Hepatitis C virus develop "chronic," or lifelong, infection.

Chronic Hepatitis C is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in a person's body. Over time, it can lead to serious liver problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer.

How is Hepatitis C spread?

Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with Hepatitis C by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992, Hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Although uncommon, outbreaks of Hepatitis C have occurred from blood contamination in medical settings.

Can Hepatitis C be spread through sex?

Yes, although scientists do not know how frequently this occurs. Having a sexually transmitted disease or HIV, sex with multiple partners, or rough sex appears to increase a person’s risk for Hepatitis C. There also appears to be an increased risk for sexual transmission of Hepatitis C among gay men who are HIV-positive

Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis C?

Although there is currently no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C, research is being conducted to develop one.

See the links below for more information about Hepatitis C:

Hepatitis C Fact Sheet         English (.pdf)

Hepatitis C Fact Sheet         Spanish (.pdf)

 


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