Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is often described as “acute,” meaning a new infection, or “chronic,” meaning long-term infection.
Hepatitis C spreads when you come in contact with blood from an infected person. Sharing needles or other equipment used to prepare or inject drugs is the root cause behind most of the people getting infected with hepatitis C virus. For some individuals, hepatitis C is a short-term illness, but for many (more than half of people) it becomes a long-term, chronic infection. Chronic hepatitis C can result in serious, even life-threatening health problems like cirrhosis and liver cancer. People with chronic hepatitis C can often have no symptoms and don’t feel sick. When symptoms appear, they often are a sign of advanced liver disease. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The best way to prevent hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injecting drugs. Getting tested for hepatitis C is important, because treatments can cure most people with hepatitis C in 8 to 12 weeks.
Data and Trend:
Today, millions of Americans living with viral hepatitis, and most don’t know they have the virus.
- 4 million people are estimated to be living with hepatitis C in the United States. One study predicted the actual number to be as high as 4.7 million or as low as 2.5 million (Edlin et al.)
- In 2018, millennials (adults in their 20s and 30s) made up 36.5% of newly reported chronic hepatitis C infections, baby boomers (adults in their mid-50s to early 70s) made up 36.3% of newly reported chronic hepatitis C infections, and generation X (adults in their late 30s to early 50s) made up 23.1% of newly reported chronic hepatitis C infections
- Edlin BR, Eckhardt BJ, Shu MA, Holmberg SD, Swan T. Toward a more accurate estimate of the prevalence of hepatitis C in the United States. Hepatology. 2015;62(5):1353-1363. doi:10.1002/hep.27978