According to WebMD, over 3 million Americans are living with a long-term hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. It is transferred from one person to another through blood and other bodily fluids, and while it’s now curable if treated with the proper medications, it often doesn’t exhibit any symptoms. As a result, a lot of people that have it, don’t realize until it has caused extensive damage to their liver.
If left untreated, hepatitis C can be very damaging and lead to serious complications with the liver. “HCV enters the body and reproduces in the host’s (infected person’s) body, specifically targeting the liver,” writes VeryWell Health. “HCV often evades the body’s immune system and causes disease as a result of direct attack on the liver.” The body’s immune system responds with inflammation, which is also quite damaging to the liver. By the time this happens and symptoms of liver damage, cirrhosis, or liver failure begin to appear, the person could potentially have been infected for decades without knowing it.
Unlike hepatitis A and B, there is no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C, so it’s up to the general public to get educated and informed on how this virus is spread so they can better protect themselves. Here’s a look at some of the most common causes and risk factors for transmitting hepatitis C…
The most common way of spreading and transmitting hepatitis C is through shared needles, which commonly happens when using needles to inject drugs. This behavior is at the top of the list for extreme risk of developing a HCV infection. According to VeryWell Health, this is how the majority of hepatitis C infections occur in the United States.
The source goes on to explain that treating the infection might be different for people who acquire it through injected drugs as compared to those who get it elsewhere. “The reasons for this are unclear, but people who are frequently re-exposed to the virus through repeated drug use are more likely to become infected again after having been treated,” writes the source.