Hepatitis C is caused by the Hepatitis C virus, sometimes shortened as HCV. Even though some patients will develop acute symptoms shortly after being infected, most patients can remain symptom-free for years or even decades, developing a chronic condition which is only diagnosed later in life when symptoms start to appear. In addition to damaging the liver, HCV can also affect the digestive, nervous, and immune system.
Hepatitis C is transmitted when blood that carries HCV enters the circulation of a healthy person. This can happen through the use of contaminated needles, which usually happens as the result of sharing needles for drug use; infection through sharing personal items, unprotected sex, tattoos or piercings, work accidents, and donated blood are also possible, but less common.
There are six types of Hepatitis C virus, all of which have different genes. They’re labeled as genotypes and numbered from 1 to 6. It is also possible to suffer from an infection caused by more than one of these genotypes at the same time.