Hepatitis C Facts

The Basics

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C (HCV) is a viral disease that affects the liver and can cause chronic liver disease. Surveys conducted 2013-2016 indicated an estimated 2.4 million persons (1.0%) in the nation were living with hepatitis C.

What are the Symptoms?

People with newly acquired HCV infection usually are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Yellowing of skin (jaundice) might occur in 20%–30% of persons, and nonspecific symptoms (e.g., discomfort, or abdominal pain) might be present in 10%–20% of persons. It can take many years from the time a person is infected with the virus before symptoms like extreme fatigue, cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer or liver failure occur.

Out of 100 adults infected with hepatitis C…

75-80 develop chronic hepatitis C

60-70 develop chronic liver disease

5-20 develop cirrhosis

1-5 die from liver disease or cancer

If you’ve tested positive for hepatitis C or think you are at risk, seek care right away to help prevent these complications.

Infection Facts

How is hepatitis C transmitted?

Hepatitis C is mainly spread through blood which might happen by:

  • Receiving blood transfusions, organ transplants or blood products before donor screening procedures were in place (1992).
  • Using IV drugs and sharing needles and syringes.
  • Birth when a mother is infected with HCV.
  • Needle stick injuries in health care settings.

Although infrequent, HCV can also be spread through:

  • Using unclean needles for tattoos or body piercings.
  • Having sex with someone who has hepatitis C.

What are some ways hepatitis C is NOT transmitted?

Hepatitis C is not spread in food or water. You also cannot get hepatitis C by:

  • Sneezing or coughing.
  • Hugging.
  • Touching or shaking hands.
  • Kissing.
  • Sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses.