About Hep C

About Hepatitis C

Millions of Americans have hepatitis C (Hep C). Many have no symptoms and can live with the infection for up to 30 years without feeling sick. However, when or if symptoms do appear, they are often a sign of serious damage to the liver. In fact, Hep C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the leading cause of liver transplants.

You cannot spread Hep C by sneezing, coughing, sharing food or water, sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils, handshakes, holding hands, hugging, kissing on the cheek, or playing with children.

Hep C is spread only through blood-to-blood contact with the blood of an infected person. Some of the most common ways Hep C is spread are:

  • Activities in which equipment has not been adequately sterilized or disinfected, or in which contaminated equipment is reused. This can include acupuncture, tattooing, injecting drugs, and even manicures
  • Receiving blood transfusions that have not been screened for Hep C
  • Working in healthcare fields (medical, dental, or laboratory) that involve direct exposure to human blood

To learn more about Hep C and how it is spread, click here and read the Hepatitis C: General Information fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Options for Treating Hep C

Treatments are available that can help fight Hep C. However, current approved treatment options can have many undesired side effects and do not provide a cure for everyone. Clinical studies are underway to test investigational drugs for people with Hep C. Click here to see if there is a participating study site in your area that you can contact directly.

Glossary of Terms and Information Relevant to Hep C Studies

Genotype: genetic makeup of cells, tissues, organisms, or individuals. Hep C has 6 major genotypes (designated 1 through 6). In the US, genotype 1a/b is most prevalent.

Viral Load: amount of Hep C in a person’s blood. Viral load tests are used to evaluate if a treatment is working

  • The viral load of most people with Hep C is in the millions
  • A higher viral load can make Hep C harder to treat
  • A higher viral load doesn’t mean one has more scarring of the liver

Hep C Ribonucleic Acid (RNA): Hep C’s genetic material. A detectable level of Hep C RNA on a viral load test means that Hep C is active.

Interferon (IFN): protein that plays a role in immune response. The 3 major classes of interferon Type 1 IFNs such as alpha and beta IFN, Type 2 IFNs such as gamma IFN and a more newly described type 3, Lambda IFN. Interferon is also a genetically-engineered product based on these proteins.

Liver Biopsy/Fibroscan/FibroTest: these tests can be used to assess cirrhosis of the liver and help monitor disease progression in people with Hep C

Ribavirin: drug used to treat chronic Hep C infection. Ribavirin, when used in combination with a Hep C protease inhibitor and/or pegylated interferon-alpha, is part of the standard of care for treating Hep C.

For more terms and information about Hep C, click on the resources below: