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What is hepatitis C | STDs Test Center

what is hepatitis c ?

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus. Today, most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. For some people, hepatitis C is a short-term illness but for 70%–85% of people who become infected with the hepatitis C virus, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection. Chronic hepatitis C is a serious disease than can result in long-term health problems, even death. Many people might not be aware of their infection because they are not clinically ill. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The best way to prevent hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injecting drugs.

How many new HCV infections occur annually in the United States?

In 2017, a total of 3,186 cases of acute hepatitis C were reported to CDC. After adjusting for under-ascertainment and under-reporting, an estimated 44,300 acute hepatitis C cases occurred in 2017.

What is the prevalence of chronic HCV infection in the United States?

An estimated 2.4 million people in the United States are living with hepatitis C  virus infection

Who is at risk for HCV infection?

The following people are at increased risk for HCV infection:

      • Current or former injection drug users, including those who injected only once many years ago
      • Recipients of clotting factor concentrates made before 1987, when less advanced methods for manufacturing those products were used
      • Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants prior to July 1992, before better testing of blood donors became available
      • Chronic hemodialysis patients
      • People with known exposures to HCV, such as
      • health care workers after needle sticks involving HCV-positive blood
      • recipients of blood or organs from a donor who tested HCV-positive
      • People with HIV infection
      • Children born to HCV-positive mothers

How is HCV transmitted?

      • Injection drug use (currently the most common means of HCV transmission in the United States) 
      • Receipt of donated blood, blood products, and organs (once a common means of transmission but now rare in the United States since blood screening became available in 1992)
      • Needle stick injuries in health care settings
      • Birth to an HCV-infected mother

  Although infrequent, HCV can also be spread through:-

      • Sex with an HCV-infected person (an inefficient means of transmission, although HIV-infected men who have sex with men [MSM] have increased risk of sexual transmission)
      • Sharing personal items contaminated with infectious blood, such as razors or toothbrushes (also inefficient vectors of transmission)
      • Other health care procedures that involve invasive procedures, such as injections (usually recognized in the context of outbreaks)
      • Unregulated tattooing

What are the signs and symptoms of acute HCV infection?

People with newly acquired HCV infection usually are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms that are unlikely to prompt a visit to a health care professional. When symptoms do occur, they can include:

      • Fever
      • Fatigue
      • Dark urine
      • Clay-colored stool
      • Abdominal pain
      • Loss of appetite
      • Nausea
      • Vomiting
      • Joint pain
      • Jaundice

How soon after exposure to HCV do symptoms appear?

In those people who do develop symptoms, the average period from exposure to symptom onset is 2–12 weeks (range: 2–26 weeks)


What is the risk that an HCV-infected mother will spread HCV to her infant during birth?

The overall risk of an HCV-infected mother transmitting infection to their infant is approximately 4% to 7% per pregnancy. Transmission occurs at the time of birth, and no prophylaxis is available to prevent it. The risk is significantly higher if the mother has a high viral load or is co infected with HIV. Most infants infected with HCV at birth have no symptoms and do well during childhood. More research is needed to find out the long-term effects of perinatal HCV infection

Should a woman with HCV infection be advised against breastfeeding?

No. There is no evidence that breastfeeding spreads HCV. While there is currently not enough information on the risks of transmission through breastfeeding by HCV-positive mothers with cracked or bleeding nipples, precautions may be considered


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