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: