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Hepatitis C, one of the most common liver infections, was traditionally considered as very difficult to treat. Recent introduction of new drugs helps to cure most of people diagnosed with this illness.

A viral infection of the liver, Hepatitis C is one of the less commonly diagnosed of all liver diseases. This is scarcely surprising considering the fact that patients rarely present with symptoms, and this is one of the infections diagnosed primarily during routine medical examinations.

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Hepatitis C is arguably one of the most serious of all viral infections of the liver considering the fact that it may persist for long periods, even for a lifetime. The fact that it may culminate in cirrhosis or even cancer of the liver is an evidence of the gravity of the disease.

In addition, no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C is currently available.

Incubation period of the disease, the period of time between the infection with the virus and manifestation of symptoms ranges from 2 weeks to 6 months. Although 80% of the patients are asymptomatic, those who manifest symptoms invariably presented with fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may be accompanied by joint pain, yellowing of urine and the whites of the eyeballs.

Statistics and transmission

The disease is spread globally. World’s Health Organization estimates that the number of people living with hepatitis C is approximately 150 million.  Annually, 350,000 people die due to the disease complications. These high numbers are, at least in part, the results of the low level of awareness about the disease. Many people don’t know that they are infected. They have no symptoms but still can pass the infection to others.

The predominant route of infection is through the blood or serum of infected patients.

One of the most common routes involves the use of contaminated needles thus leading to the higher incidence among the drug users. Mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy is also common. In addition, sharing razors, tooth brushes and even nail clippers bears the risk of passing the infection.

Acute and chronic form of disease

Statistics indicate that only 30% of children and young adults (under 20 years of age) infected with hepatitis C develop the chronic form of the disease. On the contrary, 76% of patients over the age of 20 years become chronically infected.

Progression of hepatitis C to the chronic phase is often associated with excessive alcohol consumption.

 People suffering from other chronic infections such as HIV are also more vulnerable.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Chen SL and Morgan TR (2006) The Natural History of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Infection. Int J Med Sci, 3(2): 47-52
  • Wise M, Biatek S, Finelli L, Bell BP & Sorvillo F (2008) Changing trends in Hepatitis C-related mortality in the United States, 1995-2004. Hepatology 47, 1128 – 1135
  • Roffi L, Redaelli A, Colloredo G & Minola E (2001) Outcome of liver disease in a large cohort of histologically proven chronic Hepatitis C:influence of HCV genotype. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 13(5), 501-506
  • Miriam JA, Hadler SC & Judson FN (1990) Risk Factors for Acute Non – A, Non – B Hepatitis in the United States and Association with Hepatitis C Virus Infection. JAMA 264, No. 17, 2231-2235
  • Jun DW, Tak WY, Bae SH & Lee YJ (2012) Recent trends in the treatment of Hepatitis C. Korean J Hepatol 18(1): 22-28
  • Manns MP & Cornberg M (2013) Sofosbuvir: the final nail in the coffin for hepatitis C? The Lancet Infectious Diseases 13, issue 5, pp. 378-379
  • Kathleen N Ly, Zing J, Klevens RM &Ward JW (2012) The Increasing Burden of Mortality From Viral Hepatitis in the United States Between 1999 and 2007. Annals of Internal Medicine 156(4), pp. 271-278.
  • Photo by steadyhealth.com
  • Photo courtesy of Linda Bartlett by Wikimedia Commons : commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Interferon_bottles.jpg

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