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What Causes Hepatitis C (HCV)?

Updated on January 25, 2012

What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis is a medical term meaning inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus identified as the hepatitis C virus. HCV is the abbreviation used to refer to this liver disease.

Two other forms of liver inflammation caused by viruses are hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Hepatitis is the most common cause of liver cancer and the leading cause of the need for liver transplantation. HCV is also the leading cause of cirrhosis and chronic liver disease.

Hepatitis C is transmitted primarily by contact with contaminated blood but also sometimes through bodily fluids. The majority of cases were contracted through the use of contaminated needles in illegal drug use, blood transfusions or organ transplants prior to 1992, childbirth, occupational exposure, hemodialysis, intranasal cocaine use and sexual contact explains the "International Journal of Medical Sciences.

Source

How to "Catch" Hepatitis C

Prevalence of Hepatitis C

Although exact numbers are not known due to factors such as some countries do not have the means to test their population for the presence of HCV and the fact that many people with HCV are asymptomatic, the known prevalence of hepatitis C is eye-opening.

Three to five million people in the United States alone have the disease; worldwide the number of people with HCV is thought to be between 170 to 200 million. This represents 3 percent of the world's population.

Of those people infected with HCV, 75 to 85 percent are likely to develop chronic HCV, making them likely to develop hepatic cancer, cirrhosis and manifestation of symptoms/problems in other parts of the body. Ten percent to 15 percent of HCV-infected people will develop cirrhosis of the liver within the first 20 years of contracting the virus.

The infection rate for hepatitis C throughout the world rivals that of HIV.


New Hepatitis C Treatment in 2011

History of Hepatitis C

The virus that causes HCV was not isolated by scientists until 1989. Before that discovery, people who were infected with this organism were diagnosed to have Non-A, Non_B hepatitis. The virus causing HCV is adept at mutating; 6 separate clades of HCV exist with more than 100 subtypes identified, according to a report on the epidemiology of hepatitis C from Brown University.



What Is Hepatitis C?

Chronic Hepatitis C

Fifteen to 25 percent of people who contract the disease will experience only an acute version of hepatitis C, meaning that the body will be able to successfully fight the causative virus within 6 months. The remaining 75 to 85 percent of people contracting HCV will develop chronic hepatits C. It is for these people that the progression of the liver inflammation may lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and other physical problems.

In studies done in various setting and countries, the results have demonstrated that people 25 years or younger who contract HCV have the greatest chance of being able to eradicate the disease in its acute stage. With the information currently available, men are more likely to develop chronic hepatitis C than women and African Americans are more likely to move into the chronic disease state than are Caucasians.

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