Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a virus that can damage the liver.
About 2% of Americans are infected with HCV. Hepatitis C, the liver disease caused
by HCV, is a common worldwide problem and leads to 12,000 deaths each year in the United States. You can be
infected with the virus and not know you have it. Hepatitis C virus spreads by contact with blood from an infected individual.
A simple blood test can show if you are infected with HCV. Since 1992, all blood donations have been tested for HCV.
About three quarters of persons infected with HCV develop chronic (long-term) hepatitis.
Fortunately, only about one quarter develop progressive, irreversible liver damage. In those
cases, liver tissue is gradually destroyed over time and replaced with scar tissue (cirrhosis).
the presence of cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer can occur. The May 14, 2003, issue of JAMA includes an
article about hepatitis C.