Hepatitis C is a blood-borne viral infection which can, over decades, lead to liver fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis, and in some patients, liver cancer and death. It is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, and in rare cases, sexual transmission. Approximately 4 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C; however, only 25 to 30% have been diagnosed. The diagnosis is made by specific laboratory (blood) testing. Liver biopsy may be recommended to assess the degree of fibrosis and need for treatment.
Hepatitis C is curable and treatment for most people is 12 weeks, although some people can achieve cure with only 8 weeks of treatment and others may require 24 weeks. Cure rates for almost all patients range from 90-100%, depending on the hepatitis C genotype (strain) and severity of liver disease. Previously, treatment consisted of pegylated interferon and ribavirin, which resulted in viral clearance in approximately 50% of those patients treated. Fortunately for patients, none of regimens used to cure hepatitis C today include interferon.