Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV)
Hepatitis C is also a contagious and sometimes persistent infection that can lead to lifelong liver disease (chronic). The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is mainly transmitted via contact with blood of an infected person. Risk factors include sharing needles or syringes with an infected person, sharing personal items such as razors, toothbrushes, etc. as well as by getting tattoos or piercings at an unlicensed facility. It is also recommended that anyone born between 1945 and 1965 be tested at least once for hepatitis C.
The virus is not spread casually (holding or shaking hands, hugging, sneezing, or talking to an infected individual). About 20% of people infected with hepatitis C will recover from the infection; however, for the majority, acute hepatitis C will lead to chronic hepatitis C infection. Most people are unaware that they are infected because they don’t look or feel sick.
There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. The best way to prevent infection with HCV is by educating yourself and avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease. Chronic hepatitis C is a serious disease that can lead to liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death. In the United States, HCV is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and is the most common reason for liver transplantation. HCV can survive outside the body (on environmental surfaces) at room temperature for at least 16 hours but no longer than 4 days.
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