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.
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.
An estimated 2.4 million people in the United States are living with hepatitis C virus infection
The following people are at increased risk for HCV infection:
Although infrequent, HCV can also be spread through:-
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:
In those people who do develop symptoms, the average period from exposure to symptom onset is 2–12 weeks (range: 2–26 weeks)
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
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