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Hepatitis C

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Hepatitis C is a serious infection that is caused by a virus. The virus is spread through contact with the blood of an individual who has hepatitis C. Common causes include sharing needles—whether for medical purposes or use of intravenous drugs—or from contact with tattoo equipment that is not sterile.

There are two “types” of hepatitis C:

  • Acute hepatitis C virus infection; a short-term illness that occurs after exposure to the hepatitis C virus and may lead to chronic infection
  • Chronic hepatitis C virus infection; a long-term illness caused by the virus remaining in the individual’s body, and possibly leading to cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, and other liver problems

What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis C?

While most people who contract the virus do not exhibit symptoms, some do. In these cases, symptoms may include feelings of exhaustion, loss of hunger, jaundice / yellow eyes and skin, and nausea. Hepatitis C, like hepatitis B, begins as an acute infection, but for some the virus stays in the body and can cause chronic disease and serious liver damage. Every year, about 19,000 people die from liver diseases related to hepatitis C. This disease is the current leading cause of liver cancer, liver transplantation, and cirrhosis of the liver in the United States.

Can Hepatitis C Be Treated? Is There a Vaccine?

Both acute and chronic hepatitis C can be treated using the same medications. Treating acute hepatitis C lowers the person’s risk of getting a chronic infection. Antiviral medications may be used to treat both acute and chronic hepatitis C, with new medications available that are proven to be even more effective and with less side effects than the treatments that were once used. Between 15% and 25% of people who contract hepatitis C are able to recover without treatment and do not develop chronic infections. There are currently no vaccines available to prevent hepatitis C.

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