Heptatis C Overview
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C refers to inflammation of the liver caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is usually a chronic illness (which means it does not go away). People with Hepatitis C should be monitored carefully by a doctor as it can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate approximately 3.5 million people in the United States suffer from chronic hepatitis C, with some 17,000 new cases of infection every year.
A recent CDC analysis of death certificate data found that HCV-attributable deaths increased significantly between 1999 and 2007. CDC estimates that there were 15,106 deaths caused by HCV in 2007.
How can Hepatitis C spread?
The most common way through which transmission of hepatitis C occurs is through direct contact with infected blood. It can be through blood transfusions, sharing needles, syringes and other injecting equipment with an infected person or using personal items such as razors and toothbrushes that may have touched an infected person’s blood.
Before widespread screening of the blood supply in 1992, Hepatitis C was also spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. While uncommon, poor infection control has resulted in outbreaks in healthcare settings.
While rare, sexual transmission of Hepatitis C is possible. Having a sexually transmitted disease or HIV, sex with multiple partners, or rough sex appears to increase a person’s risk for Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C can also be spread when getting tattoos and body piercings in unlicensed facilities, informal settings, or with non-sterile instruments. It has been found that approximately 6% of infants born to infected mothers will get Hepatitis C. Still, some people don’t know how or when they got infected.