Hepatitis C Virus – HCV
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne, infectious, viral disease that is caused by a hepatotropic virus called Hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection can cause liver inflammation that is often asymptomatic, but ensuing chronic hepatitis can result later in cirrhosis (fibrotic scarring of the liver) and liver cancer.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread by blood-to-blood contact with an infected person’s blood. The symptoms can be medically managed, and a proportion of patients can be cleared of the virus by a long course of anti-viral medicines. Although early medical intervention is helpful, people with HCV infection often experience mild symptoms, and consequently do not seek treatment. An estimated 150-200 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C. In the U.S., those with a history of intravenous drug use, inhaled drug usage, tattoos, or who have been exposed to blood via unsafe sex or social practices are increased risk for this disease. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplant in the United States.
The hepatitis C virus is one of six known hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D, E, G.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact. In developed countries, it is estimated that 90% of persons with chronic HCV infection were infected through transfusion of unscreened blood or blood products or via injecting drug use or by inhalational drug use. In developing countries, the primary sources of HCV infection are unsterilized injection equipment and infusion of inadequately screened blood and blood products.
Although injection drug use and receipt of infected blood/blood products are the most common routes of HCV infection, any practice, activity, or situation that involves blood-to-blood exposure can potentially be a source of HCV infection. The virus may be sexually transmitted, although this is rare, and usually only occurs when a second STD makes blood contact more likely.