Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Hepatitis C - An Overview

What is Hepatitis?


“Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.


Hepatitis, Infographic, WHO
Source: WHO


What is Hepatitis C?


Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. It results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.”

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes both acute and chronic infection. Acute HCV infection is usually asymptomatic, and is only very rarely associated with life-threatening disease. About 15–45% of infected persons spontaneously clear the virus within 6 months of infection without any treatment.
The remaining 55–85% of persons will develop chronic HCV infection. Of those with chronic HCV infection, the risk of cirrhosis of the liver is between 15–30% within 20 years.
Acute Hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection.

Chronic Hepatitis C virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in a person’s body. Hepatitis C virus infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.



Hepatitis, Infographic, CDC
Source: CDC


Key facts

  • Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus: the virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis infection, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
  • The hepatitis C virus is a bloodborne virus and the most common modes of infection are through unsafe injection practices, inadequate sterilization of medical equipment, and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.
  • Globally, between 130–150 million people globally have chronic hepatitis C infection.
  • A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
  • Approximately 700 000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases.
  • Antiviral medicines can cure approximately 90% of persons with hepatitis C infection, thereby reducing the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low.
  • There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C; however research in this area is ongoing.



It's estimated that around 215,000 people in the UK have hepatitis C.

About 3.5 million people in the U.S. have the disease. But it causes few symptoms, so most of them don't know.

There are many forms of the hepatitis C virus. The most common in the U.S. is type 1. None is more serious than any other, but they respond differently to treatment.

If left untreated, it can sometimes cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage to the liver over many years.

However, with modern treatments it's often possible to cure the infection and most people with it will have a normal life expectancy.

While some people who get infected with Hepatitis C are able to clear, or get rid of, the virus, most people who get infected develop a chronic, or lifelong, infection. Over time, chronic Hepatitis C can lead to serious liver problems including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer. But many people can benefit from available treatment options that can eliminate the virus from the body and prevent further liver damage.



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