Learn the basics about the infection caused by the hepatitis C virus.
What is hepatitis C and what harm does it do?
It is a blood-borne virus which can infect and damage the liver, potentially leading to cirrhosis if untreated. In the most severe cases it can lead to liver failure or liver cancer, both of which can be fatal. About 215,000 people in the UK are estimated to have hepatitis C.
How does it spread?
It is usually contracted through contact with the blood of an infected person, although it is also present in other body fluids. In the UK, most hepatitis C infections occur in intravenous drug users or people who have injected them in the past. Other common means of infection include through sharing razors or toothbrushes.
What are the symptoms?
Often people have no symptoms or symptoms that are not obviously linked to the virus. They may only become noticeable when the liver has been significantly damaged.
How can it be treated?
One in five people fight off the infection without treatment, with their own immune system, during the first six months of infection. If this does not happen, treatment typically lasts between 12 and 48 weeks and involves a combination of drugs that stop the virus multiplying inside the body. The success rate of treatment varies for different strains but the majority of people can be successfully treated.
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