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Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. (Read about "The Liver") In Hepatitis C, the inflammation is caused by the hepatitis C virus. This type of hepatitis is spread by contact with the blood of an infected person. According to the American Liver Foundation, up to 85 percent of people exposed to this virus develop chronic liver disease.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says most at risk of this infection are:
The American College of Physicians says Americans born between 1945 and 1965 should have a one-time screening for the hepatitis C virus (HCV). CDC recommends that all persons identified with HCV should then receive a brief alcohol screening.
If someone tests positive for Hepatitis C, CDC says the next step is to then measure the level of ALT (alanine aminotransferase, a liver enzyme) in the blood. (Read about "Laboratory Testing") A high level indicates liver inflammation, and the potential for chronic hepatitis. Treatment options for certain cases can include medications, such as interferon and ribavirin. If hepatitis C has caused extensive damage to the liver, a patient may eventually need a liver transplant. (Read about "Transplants")
The American Liver Foundation says Hepatitis C appears to be a slowly progressive disease that may gradually advance over 10-40 years. Among the factors that may influence its rate of progression are diet and lifestyle. Anyone who is concerned they may have been exposed to infected blood, recently or in the past, should contact their doctor.
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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