Hepatitis C is a viral infection. It can inflame and damage the liver.
Hepatitis C is usually transmitted through contact with infected blood. It can be spread through:
Shared needles during intravenous drug use
Shared devices used to snort cocaine
Unprotected sexual intercourse (this is uncommon)
Accidental stick with a contaminated needle
Blood transfusions (rare because of improved screening techniques since 1992)
Childbirth, from mother to child during delivery
Contaminated tattoo or body piercing equipment
The hepatitis C virus can cause short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) hepatitis C. Most people with acute hepatitis C eventually develop chronic hepatitis C.
Most people with hepatitis C don't know that they are infected. That's because hepatitis C usually does not cause symptoms.
After having this silent infection for 20 to 30 years, about one-third of people develop cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a serious liver disease that can lead to death. A smaller group of people with chronic hepatitis C develop liver cancer.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend screening for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in people at higher than average risk. Also there is a high prevalence of infection in adults born between 1945 and 1965. If you were born during that time, you should get a one-time simple blood test to make sure you are not infected.