In 2018, there were more than 50,000 new hepatitis C infections in the US and it is estimated that there are 2.4 million people currently living with hepatitis C.1 Most people with an active infection have no symptoms and 50% of people infected with hepatitis C will have a chronic infection.2 Chronic hepatitis C infection can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer, though antivirals can cure 95% of people with hepatitis C infections.3 There is currently no vaccine available for hepatitis C.
Recent data suggest that over 40% of people with hepatitis C will resolve the infection on their own.4 Because symptoms are often not present until there is advanced liver damage, in 2020 the CDC updated guidance for hepatitis C screening for adults to reduce morbidity and mortality. The new recommendations include screening of all adults over 18 years of age at least once in their lifetime and screening of all pregnant women during each pregnancy.4 These updates were in addition to existing recommendations which include periodic testing of people with ongoing risk factors, testing of healthcare workers after exposure to hepatitis C positive blood, and babies born to hepatitis C infected mothers and additional recommendations that can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/rr/rr6902a1.htm.
Hepatitis C Genotyping
Once a patient is confirmed to have hepatitis C, a genotyping test may be performed to identify which hepatitis C virus genotype is present. Many hepatitis C therapies are genotype specific and identification of which hepatitis C virus genotype a person has can be used by the doctor to determine the best antiviral regimen to prescribe.5
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Viral Hepatitis. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/abc/index.htm (accessed December 2020)
2. Moon, J., and Bailey, J. Hepatitis C. Johns Hopkins ABX Guide. (last updated February 2019).
3. World Health Organization. Hepatitis C. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-c (accessed December 2020).
4. Schillie, S., et al. CDC Recommendations for Hepatitis C Screening Among Adults – United States, 2020. Recommendations and Reports, April 10, 2020. 69(2);1–17.
5. HCV Guidance: Recommendations for Testing, managing, and treating Hepatitis C. Infectious Disease Society of America. https://www.hcvguidelines.org/ (accessed December 2020).