Most of HCV-infected persons (75 to 85%) carry the virus for the rest of their lives; such persons can spread the virus for many years. Up to 20% of patients with chronic HCV develop cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer, some as late as 20 years after HCV infection. In severe cases, liver transplantation is the only treatment.
Many persons have no symptoms of HCV infection. If a person is exposed to HCV, symptoms may appear about 6 to 8 weeks later, but this time period can vary among individuals. Some persons find out they are infected after lab tests are done (for example, after giving blood).
A doctor will decide what tests are needed. Routine testing is not recommended for the general public, health care/emergency medical/public safety workers, pregnant women, or household (non-sexual) contacts of HCVinfected persons.
Two drugs, interferon and ribavirin, can be used to treat HCV. The treatment is effective in 10-40% of persons. Doctors will help decide who should be treated and can explain how to protect the liver, for example, by not drinking alcohol and avoiding certain medicines.
Injecting drug users should not share needles or works with others. The use of latex condoms may decrease the risk of catching or passing HCV through sex.
MD Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Epidemiology & Disease Control Program