Hepatitis C is a liver disease which is caused by the Hepatitis C virus, also known as HCV. HCV is a blood-borne virus, meaning that it is transmitted via blood. A person can become infected with the virus through exposure to infected blood.
This may happen through unsafe injection practices, transfusion of unscreened blood, unsafe health care and rarely, through sexual intercourse. HCV cannot be transmitted by sharing cup or eating utensils with an infected person; neither can it be transmitted through hugging or kissing.
HCV can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, which can range in severity from a mild illness lasting about a few weeks, to a serious long-term illness. According to the World Health Organization’s estimate, about 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C infection, and a large number of this population would go on to develop liver cancer or cirrhosis.
HCV is a major cause of chronic liver diseases in the world. Every year, 399,000 people die from hepatitis C and currently, no vaccine has yet been developed for the disease.
Here are some other facts about hepatitis C you should know:
- Anyone can be infected with HCV
- The disease can either be acute or chronic. In most people, it starts as an acute infection and then progresses to a chronic one
- About 75-85% of people who become infected with HCV develop chronic hepatitis
- Chronic hepatitis is a very serious condition that can lead to liver failure, liver damage, liver cancer or death
- An infected woman can pass on the infection to her baby during childbirth
- While the infection is rarely transmitted through sexual intercourse, persons who have multiple sexual partners, engage in rough sex, have an STD or are infected with HIV, have an increased risk of becoming infected
- HCV can survive outside the body at room temperature for about three weeks. Dried blood from an infected person can still be infectious
- The infection cannot be transmitted through mosquito or insect bite