Hepatitis C Education
Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). There are two types of hepatitis C -- acute and chronic.
About 15 percent of cases end up being acute hepatitis C, in which the immune system is able to completely destroy the virus. For about 85 percent of infected people, however, the immune system is not able to completely get rid of the hepatitis C virus, and they end up having a long-term liver infection. This is called chronic hepatitis C.
Approximately 300 million people worldwide are infected with the hepatitis C virus. About 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C. This represents about 1.8 percent of the population.
Hepatitis C is approximately seven times more infectious than HIV.
Hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted in the following manner:
- Intravenous drug use (injection) – Currently, the most common means of Hepatitis C transmission in the United States, approximately 10 million injection drug users (IDUs) worldwide might be infected with the Hepatitis C virus
- Blood and Blood Product Transfusions (before 1992)
- Organ Transplants (before 1992)
- Healthcare and Occupational Exposure (needle-stick injuries)
- Intranasal Drug Use (snorting drugs through a straw)
- Tattoo and Body Piercing
- Sexual Transmission (Multiple sex partners)
- Household Contact (sharing of personal items such as razors, toothbrushes, scissors and manicuring equipment within the same household)
- Medical Procedures
Hepatitis C is not transmitted by casual contact like hugging or kissing, nor is it transmitted through breast milk (unless the mother’s nipples are cracked or bleeding), food, water or sharing food or water with an infected person.