Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the bloodborne hepatitis c virus (World Health Organization, 2015).

Hep C is most often transmitted through injection drug use, inadequate sterilization of medical equipment, and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products. Other modes of transmission include intercourse with an HCV positive partner, and a pregnant HCV positive mother transmitting the virus to her baby (WHO, 2015).

With injection drug use being the most common form of transmission amongst HCV positive persons, approximately 1 out of every 3 IDU’s will become infected with hepatitis C (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015).

After infection, approximately 15-45% of those infected with HCV spontaneously clear the virus on their own within the first 6 months without any medical treatment. For the remaining 55-85%, medical treatment is available, and approximately 90% of those receiving medical treatment within adequate time of transmitting the virus will clear the infection (WHO, 2015).

SYMPTOMS

Hepatitis C is largely asymptomatic, with roughly only 20-30% of those affected with acute HCV developing symptoms. When acute HCV symptoms are present, they include fatigue, poor appetite, abdominal pain, and nausea (CDC, 2015).

When people with acute HCV go on to develop chronic HCV, the symptoms often do not manifest until there is already serious liver damage in place (WHO, 2015).

TESTING AND TREATMENT

Testing for HCV is done through a blood screen.

The World Health Organization recommends that any of the following high-risk populations be tested for the virus:

•Persons born from 1945 through 1965
•Persons who have ever injected illegal drugs, including those who injected only once many years ago
•Recipients of clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
•Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants before July 1992
•Patients who have ever received long-term hemodialysis treatment

•Persons with known exposures to HCV, such as:
ohealth care workers after needlesticks involving HCV-positive blood
orecipients of blood or organs from a donor who later tested HCV-positive

•All persons with HIV infection
•Patients with signs or symptoms of liver disease (e.g., abnormal liver enzyme tests)
•Children born to HCV-positive mothers (to avoid detecting maternal antibody, these children should not be tested before age 18 months)

Depending on each individual’s genotype, and where they are at in the progression of the virus, there are several different treatment options available.

To find the recommended treatment based on genotype and progression, visit <http://www.hepmag.com/articles/2512_18756.shtml>.