+ What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C (HCV) is a virus which affects humans.
Of those exposed to HCV some will clear the virus, however the majority will have long-term chronic infection. Most people infected with HCV don't know that they have it and may be asymptomatic. In others symptoms take an average 11 years to 20 years to develop. Many with chronic infection don't have any noticeable symptoms or liver damage at all and remain well, however are infectious and should take care to reduce any risk of transmitting the virus to others. The major way HCV is spread is through contact with infected blood.

HCV damages the liver in the majority of cases. Symptoms may include tiredness, abdominal discomfort and nausea. Currently there is no way to predict what will happen for any one person, and symptoms may be disproportionately disabling compared to the amount of liver damage.

The cause of fatigue associated with hepatitis C is not yet fully understand, however alcohol use exacerbates any damage caused by HCV.

Over time, chronic infection may result in permanent scarring of the liver called cirrhosis. This is not life-threatening in itself but after a further 5 to 10 years, extensive cirrhosis may result in liver failure or cancer of the liver.

In Australia, the prevalence of people with the virus is estimated at between 0.5% and 1%. This means about one in every 100 people carry the virus. In the USA the prevalence is estimated to be 1.5% , that is 4 million people have HCV. Prevalence varies from region to region, China having around 4%, and Egypt having 18% of the population affected.

World wide it is estimated that 200 million people are HCV carriers.
The Hepatitis C Virus will cause many more deaths than HIV.

If you think you may have HCV see your doctor.