Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) that primarily affects the liver;[2] it is a type of viral hepatitis.[7] During the initial infection people often have mild or no symptoms.[1] Occasionally a fever, dark urine, abdominal pain, and yellow tinged skin occurs.[1] The virus persists in the liver in about 75% to 85% of those initially infected.[1] Early on, chronic infection typically has no symptoms.[1] Over many years however, it often leads to liver disease and occasionally cirrhosis.[1] In some cases, those with cirrhosis will develop serious complications such as liver failure, liver cancer, or dilated blood vessels in the esophagus and stomach.[2]

Hepatitis C
Electron micrograph of hepatitis C virus from cell culture (scale = 50 nanometers)
SpecialtyGastroenterology, Infectious disease
SymptomsTypically none[1]
ComplicationsLiver failure, liver cancer, esophageal and gastric varices[2]
DurationLong term (80%)[1]
CausesHepatitis C virus usually spread by blood-to-blood contact[1][3]
Diagnostic methodBlood testing for antibodies or viral RNA[1]
PreventionSterile needles, testing donated blood[4]
TreatmentMedications, liver transplant[5]
MedicationAntivirals (sofosbuvir, simeprevir, others)[1][4]
Frequency58 million (2019)[6]
Deaths290,000 (2019)[6]

HCV is spread primarily by blood-to-blood contact associated with injection drug use, poorly sterilized medical equipment, needlestick injuries in healthcare, and transfusions.[1][3] Using blood screening, the risk from a transfusion is less than one per two million.[1] It may also be spread from an infected mother to her baby during birth.[1] It is not spread by superficial contact.[4] It is one of five known hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D, and E.[8]

Diagnosis is by blood testing to look for either antibodies to the virus or viral RNA.[1] In the United States, screening for HCV infection is recommended in all adults age 18 to 79 years old.[9]

There is no vaccine against hepatitis C.[1][10] Prevention includes harm reduction efforts among people who inject drugs, testing donated blood, and treatment of people with chronic infection.[4][11] Chronic infection can be cured more than 95% of the time with antiviral medications such as sofosbuvir or simeprevir.[6][1][4] Peginterferon and ribavirin were earlier generation treatments that had a cure rate of less than 50% and greater side effects.[4][12] Getting access to the newer treatments, however, can be expensive.[4] Those who develop cirrhosis or liver cancer may require a liver transplant.[5] Hepatitis C is the leading reason for liver transplantation, though the virus usually recurs after transplantation.[5]

An estimated 58 million people worldwide were infected with hepatitis C in 2019. Approximately 290,000 deaths from the virus, mainly from liver cancer and cirrhosis attributed to hepatitis C, also occurred in 2019.[13] The existence of hepatitis C – originally identifiable only as a type of non-A non-B hepatitis – was suggested in the 1970s and proven in 1989.[14] Hepatitis C infects only humans and chimpanzees.[15]

Video summary (script)

Share this article:

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Hepatitis C, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.