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Hepatitis C Infection
(HCV, Hep C)

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Hepatitis C infection (HCV, hep C) facts

  • Hepatitis C is one of several viruses that cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).
  • Up to 85% of individuals who are initially (acutely) infected with hep C will fail to eliminate the virus and will become chronically infected.
  • Hepatitis C is spread most commonly through inadvertent exposure to infected blood.
  • Intravenous drug abuse is the most common mode of transmission.
  • The risk of acquiring hepatitis C through sexual contact is low.
  • Generally, people with chronic infection with hepatitis C develop no symptoms until they have extensive scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Some individuals, however, may have fatigue and other non-specific symptoms in the absence of cirrhosis. A minority of patients with hepatitis C have symptoms from organs outside of the liver.
  • In the U.S., infection with hepatitis C is the most common cause of chronic hepatitis and the most common reason for liver transplantation.
  • Hepatitis C is diagnosed by determining levels in the blood of antibodies to the virus and then confirmed with other tests for viral RNA. The amount of viral RNA in the blood (viral load) does not correlate with the severity of the disease but can be used to track the response to treatment.
  • A liver biopsy may be used to assess the amount of liver damage (liver cell injury and scarring), which can be important in planning treatment.
  • Considerable progress has been made in the treatment of hepatitis C. The response rate to treatment has increased (above 90%-95%) with the development of direct acting all-oral drug regimens.
  • Treatment results in reduced inflammation and scarring of the liver in most sustained responders and also occasionally (and to a much lesser extent) in those who relapse or do not respond.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/20/2015


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