What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a virus that can cause the liver to become inflamed. Hepatitis C is one of several different viruses that affect the liver. Right now, we know about hepatitis A, B, C, D, E and G viruses.
Hepatitis C mainly infects liver cells, where the virus makes more copies of itself. These copies go on to infect other liver cells. When the immune system attacks the infected cells, the liver becomes inflamed. This process slowly damages the liver, and can sometimes lead to severe liver disease, potentially resulting in fibrosis, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, or end-stage liver disease.
Hepatitis C (HCV) is the most common blood-borne virus in the United States, with 2.5 – 3.5 million Americans currently infected. It is the leading cause of liver transplants in the U.S and a leading cause of mortality among people living with HIV. Approximately 8,000 to 10,000 people die each year in the U.S. due to liver disease caused by hepatitis C, and hepatitis C-related liver disease is now a leading cause of mortality in people with HIV.
Most new cases are among people who inject drugs, with studies showing that most people who have ever injected drugs have hepatitis C.