Hepatitis is a term that means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C (HCV) is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. HCV is a blood-borne virus that is transmitted through sharing IV drug needles, unprotected sex, and any direct contact with infected blood. Healthcare workers are also at risk through accidental needle sticks from infected patients.
Acute or chronic?
Hepatitis is categorized by the duration of the infection: acute hepatitis (short-lived) or chronic hepatitis (lasting at least 6 months). Most people get over acute hepatitis within a few days or a few weeks. When the inflammation does not go away in six months, the condition is considered chronic hepatitis.
Who is at risk for HCV?
- Current or former intravenous drug users
- Recipients of clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
- Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants before July 1992, when better testing of blood donors became available
- Chronic hemodialysis patients
- Persons with known exposures to HCV, such as healthcare workers after accidental needle sticks from infected patients
- Persons with HIV infection
- Children born to HCV-positive mothers
What are HCV genotypes?
- At least six distinct HCV genotypes (genotypes 1–6) and more than 50 subtypes have been identified by researchers; genotype 1 is the most common HCV genotype in the United States
- Knowing your genotype can help your healthcare provider predict the likelihood of treatment response and determine the duration of your treatment
- Once your genotype is identified, you will not need to be tested again; genotypes do not change during the course of infection
Statistics on HCV
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that as of 2015, approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are infected with HCV
- Most (75% to 85%) who are infected with HCV develop chronic HCV
- In 2013, The Food and Drug Administration approved two new direct acting antiviral drugs to treat chronic HCV infection
- According to the CDC, Baby Boomers (people born during 1945-1965) are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults
- Chronic HCV over the course of many years may cause scarring of the liver and lead to poor liver function or liver failure; if the liver has been severely damaged the patient may need a transplant