Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. This virus is not spread by casual contact. Between 50% and 80% of people who are infected with Hepatitis C will go on to carry the virus for the rest of their lives. Up to 25% of these carriers may develop cirrhosis or possibly liver cancer.
Hepatitis C is spread by exposure to blood and body fluids. The virus is transmitted primarily by sharing needles. It can also be spread by receiving a transfusion or blood products, and having sex with someone who has Hepatitis C, although both are rare. Blood products have been tested for Hepatitis C since 1990, so the risk of receiving hepatitis C from a transfusion is very low.
Individuals with Hepatitis C can spread the virus starting about one week before they have symptoms through the entire time they have the disease.
Many people with Hepatitis C have no symptoms. Others may experience:
People with Hepatitis C need rest and a proper diet. Some people need to be hospitalized, and some will need to take a medication prescribed by their doctor. Alcohol should be avoided. Talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication.
Ask your doctor about immunization against Hepatitis A and B.
People with the hepatitis C virus should tell their doctors, dentists, dental hygienists and all of their sexual partners that they are infected. People with hepatitis C should not donate blood, organs or semen.