Hepatitis C General Fact Sheet

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with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today , most people become infected with Hepatitis C by …

General Information

What is hepatitis?

"Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can also cause hepatitis.

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. When first infected, a person can develop an "acute" infection, which can range in severity from a very mild illness with few or no symptoms to a serious condition requiring hospitalization. Acute Hepatitis C is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For reasons that are not known, 15%­25% of people "clear" the virus without treatment. Approximately 75%­85% of people who become infected with the Hepatitis C virus develop "chronic," or lifelong, infection. Chronic Hepatitis C is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in a person’s body. Over time, it can lead to serious liver problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer (see chart).

Progression of Hepatitis C

For Every
People Infected with the Hepatitis C Virus


Can Hepatitis C be prevented?
Yes. To reduce the risk of becoming infected with the Hepatitis C virus:

Will Develop Chronic Liver Disease

60­70 5­20 1­5

Do not share needles or other equipment to inject cosmetic substances, drugs, or steroids Do not use personal items that may have come into contact with an infected person’s blood, such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, or glucose monitors Do not get tattoos or body piercings from an unlicensed facility or in an informal setting

Will Develop Cirrhosis

Will Die of Cirrhosis or Liver Cancer

How is Hepatitis C spread?

Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with Hepatitis C by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992, Hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Although uncommon, outbreaks of Hepatitis C have occurred from blood contamination in medical settings.

Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis C?
Although there is currently no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C, research is being conducted to develop one.

Can Hepatitis C be spread through sex?

Yes, although scientists do not know how frequently this occurs. Having a sexually transmitted disease or HIV, sex with multiple partners, or rough sex appears to increase a person’s risk for Hepatitis C. There also appears to be an increased risk for sexual transmission of Hepatitis C among gay men who are HIV-positive.

Can a person get Hepatitis C from a tattoo or piercing?

There is little evidence that Hepatitis C is spread by getting tattoos in licensed, commercial facilities. Whenever tattoos or body piercings are given in informal settings or with non-sterile instruments, transmission of Hepatitis C and other infectious diseases is possible.


Will Develop Chronic Infection


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