Hepatitis C.swf

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Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection is often asymptomatic, but once established, chronic infection can progress to scarring of the liver (fibrosis), and advanced scarring (cirrhosis), which is generally apparent after many years. In some cases, those with cirrhosis will go on to develop liver failure or other complications of cirrhosis, including liver cancer or life threatening esophageal varices and gastric varices.

The hepatitis C virus is spread by blood-to-blood contact. Most people have few, if any symptoms after the initial infection, yet the virus persists in the liver in about 85% of those infected. Persistent infection can be treated with medication, peginterferon and ribavirin being the standard-of-care therapy. Overall, 51% are cured. Those who develop cirrhosis or liver cancer may require a liver transplant, and the virus universally recurs after the transplant takes place.

An estimated 180 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is not known to cause disease in other animals. No vaccine against hepatitis C is currently available. The existence of hepatitis C (originally "non-A non-B hepatitis") was postulated in the 1970s and proven in 1989. It is one of five known hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D, and E.

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