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Hepatitis C

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. This viral infection causes the liver to swell. Over time, this can damage the liver and keep it from working well. The hepatitis C virus spreads through contact with an infected person’s blood.

Hepatitis C has two forms:

  • Acute hepatitis C is a short-term sickness that occurs within six months after someone is exposed to the virus. For most people, acute infection leads to long-term infection.
  • Chronic hepatitis C is a long-term illness that occurs when the virus remains in a person’s body. The infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, as well as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.

Roughly 4 million people in the U.S. have hepatitis C. Each year, about 17,000 Americans become infected with the virus. A vaccine for hepatitis C does not exist. But you can take steps to protect yourself from the virus. If you think you have been exposed to the virus or have hepatitis C infection, talk with your doctor about treatment options. Available medicines can cure most cases of hepatitis C.

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