Hepatitis C Infection (Hep C): Causes, How It’s Spread, and Treatment

Hepatitis C infection (HCV) facts

What is hepatitis C infection, and how many people are infected?

Hepatitis C infection is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (also referred to as HCV). It is difficult for the human immune system to eliminate hepatitis C from the body, and infection with hepatitis C usually becomes chronic. Over decades, chronic infection with hepatitis C damages the liver and can cause liver failure. In the U.S., the CDC has estimated that approximately 29,718 new cases occurred in 2013. When the virus first enters the body there usually are no symptoms, so this number is an estimate. Up to 85% of newly-infected people fail to eliminate the virus and become chronically infected. In the U.S., more than three million people are chronically infected with hepatitis C. Infection is most commonly detected among people who are 40 to 60 years of age, reflecting the high rates of infection in the 1970s and 1980s. There are 8,000 to 10,000 deaths each year in the U.S. related to hepatitis C infection. Hepatitis C infection is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the U.S. and is a risk factor for liver cancer.

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

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