Hepatitis C (HCV) is a viral infection that can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that can lead to chronic liver disease, liver cancer, and sometimes death. HCV is among the most common newly reported infections in Vermont. In the U.S., about 3.5 million Americans are living with the virus, although it’s estimated that 50% of them do not know that they have HCV.
People can live with HCV for many years without symptoms, and it’s possible to transmit the virus to others while asymptomatic. HCV is primarily transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, but sexual transmission is also possible. While most new HCV infections are the result of sharing intravenous drug use equipment, people who received blood transfusions before 1992 account for the majority of existing cases. That was the year reliable testing of the blood supply was put into place. There is no vaccine to prevent HCV infection.