Hepatitis C infection (HCV) facts
- Hepatitis C is one of several viruses that cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).
- About 3.5 million people are estimated to be currently infected with hepatitis C in the U.S.
- Up to 85% of individuals who are initially (acutely) infected with hepatitis C will fail to eliminate the virus and will become chronically infected.
- Hepatitis C is spread through exposure to infected blood. Intravenous drug abuse with the use of contaminated, shared needles is the most common mode of transmission.
- The risk of acquiring hepatitis C through sexual contact or breastfeeding is very low.
- Generally, people with chronic infection with hepatitis C have no symptoms until they have extensive scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Some individuals, however, may have fatigue and other non-specific symptoms before this occurs.
- In the U.S., infection with hepatitis C is the most common cause of chronic hepatitis and the most common reason for liver transplantation.
- Much progress has been made in the treatment of hepatitis C. The rate of cure has increased (above 90%-95%) with the development of direct-acting, all-oral antiviral medications.
- Treatment results in reduced inflammation and scarring of the liver in most patients who are cured of hepatitis C and also occasionally (but to a much lesser extent) in those who relapse or are not cured.