You are here

Hepatitis C - Get the Facts


Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis C is often described as “acute,” meaning a new infection or “chronic,” meaning lifelong infection.  In 2016, a total of 2,967 cases of acute hepatitis C were reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since many people may not have symptoms or don’t know they are infected, their illness is often not diagnosed or reported and therefore can’t be counted.  The CDC estimates the actual number of acute hepatitis C cases was almost 41,200 in 2016.  In 2010, the CDC estimated about 3.5 million people in the United States are living with chronic hepatitis C.

People can become infected with the Hepatitis C virus during such activities as:

  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to prepare or inject drugs
  • Needle stick injuries in health care settings
  • Being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C
  • Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another person’s blood, such as razors or toothbrushes
  • Having sexual contact with a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus
  • Getting a tattoo or body piercing in an unregulated setting

Hepatitis C virus is not spread by sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, or through food or water.

The CDC currently recommends hepatitis C testing for:

  • Everyone born from 1945  to 1965 (“baby boomers”) should be tested once without prior risk factor assessment
  • Current or former injection drug users, including those who injected only once many years ago
  • Anyone who received clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
  • Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants prior to July 1992
  • Anyone with persistently abnormal alanine aminotransferase levels (ALT)
  • Long-term hemodialysis patients
  • People with known exposures to the hepatitis C virus, such as
    • Health care workers or public safety workers after needle sticks involving blood from someone infected with the hepatitis C virus
    • Recipients of blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for the hepatitis C virus
  • People with HIV infection
  • Children born to mothers with hepatitis C

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, in addition to the CDC recommendations, suggest testing for:

  • People in jails or prison
  • People who use drugs snorted through the nose

The good news is that there are now multiple medication options available to treat chronic hepatitis C and treatments have gotten much better in recent years. Current treatments usually involve just 8-12 weeks of oral therapy pills and cure over 90% of people with very few side effects.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact your healthcare provider for further information and discussion.


Jason K. Abifer MD, MS earned his Medical Degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington DC, and completed his Residency in Internal Medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Cornell Medical Center in New York, NY. He is Board Certified in Gastroenterology and completed his Fellowship in Gastroenterology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, NY. Dr. Abifer provides care to patients in Crystal Run Healthcare's West Nyack location.