Hepatitis C is a severe infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis c virus. According to the World Health Organization, the virus can cause both acute and chronic infection, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Approximately 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases.
Acute HCV infection is usually asymptomatic. Occasionally, acute infection can cause yellowing of the skin or eyes; fever; fatigue; nausea and vomiting. Patients with chronic HCV infection may develop end stage liver disease including cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma.
Can Hepatitis C be Treated?
Diagnosis of HCV is typically made in patients with abnormal liver enzymes. A liver biopsy may be necessary to determine the degree of inflammation and/or permanent damage to the liver. The standard of care for hepatitis C is changing rapidly. Current therapy regiments include a combination of weekly interferon and ribavirin injections. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Are You at Risk?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you get tested for hepatitis C if you:
- Received blood from a donor who had the disease
- Have ever injected drugs
- Had a blood transfusion or an organ transplant before July 1992
- Received a blood product used to treat clotting problems before 1987
- Were born between 1945 and 1965
- Have ever been on long-term kidney dialysis
- Have HIV
- Were born to a mother with hepatitis C
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