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Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and it can range in severity from mild illness, lasting only a few weeks, to severe illness, that lasts for years. Most people do not even know they have the disease as they do not develop any symptoms for years. For this reason, you should do an STD testing regularly to rule it out.

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This disease does not get better by itself. The infection will last for years and if left untreated, it will end up scarring the liver, or can even lead to liver cancer. And the most serious cases of hepatitis C will need a liver transplant.

Symptoms

Hepatitis CUsually, the incubation period for this infection is from two weeks to six months. After the initial contact with the virus, as much as 80% of the infected individuals do not experience any symptoms. Thus, if you have any suspicion that you have been exposed to the HCV, you should look for STD testing clinics or STD testing centers as soon as possible and test yourself.

The individuals who are acutely symptomatic will usually exhibit fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, jaundice and gray-colored feces.

Statistics show that 75-85% of the newly infected individuals develop chronic hepatitis C and 60-70% of the chronically infected persons will develop chronic liver disease. Approximately 5-20% will develop cirrhosis, and 25% of the patients suffering from liver cancer, have developed the cancer due to hepatitis C.

Transmission

The HCV is most commonly transmitted through exposure to infected blood. This usually occurs when an individual:

• received contaminated blood transfusions or infected organ transplant

• was injected with contaminated syringes in health-care settings

• injected drugs

• was born from a mother that suffered from the virus

Although not as common, HCV can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse with an infected person or even sharing personal items contaminated with infectious blood. However, HCV is not transmitted through breast milk, food, water, kissing, hugging and sharing food or drinks with an infected person.

Prevention

Unlike in the case of hepatitis A and B, the HCV does not have a vaccine, although scientists are working to find one. Thus it is best to try to reduce the risk of infection by avoiding:

• unsafe injections

• sharing injection equipment under any circumstance

• unsafe sharps waste collections and disposals

• unprotected sex, especially with people infected with the virus

In addition, if you have the HCV it is recommended that you make a vaccine against the hepatitis A and B, to prevent co-infection from these viruses and thus, protect your liver. You should also get early medical treatment against the disease.

As you can see, the HCV is the most severe hepatitis virus as there is no vaccine against it and if left untreated, can lead to severe problems. You should always monitor yourself regularly through an STD test for an early diagnostic to find out if you have hepatitis C and get treatment as soon as possible.