Author(s): THAD WILKINS, JENNIFER K MALCOLM, DIMPLE RAINA, ROBERT R SCHADE
Hepatitis C, a common chronic bloodborne infection, is found in approximately 2 percent of adults in the United States. Chronic infection is associated with serious morbidity and mortality (e.g., cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma). Testing for hepatitis C is recommended for at-risk populations, and confirmatory testing includes quantification of virus by polymerase chain reaction. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against routine screening for hepatitis C virus infection in asymptomatic adults who are not at increased risk of infection (general population). It found insufficient evidence to recommend for or against routine screening in adults at high risk of infection. Current therapy for chronic hepatitis C virus includes pegylated interferon and ribavirin. Therapy is based on factors that predict sustained virologic response, and the goal of therapy is to slow or halt progression of fibrosis and prevent the development of cirrhosis. In the future, multidrug regimens in combination with current therapies may be developed. Patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection should be advised to abstain from alcohol use. Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent hepatitis C virus infection; however, persons infected with hepatitis C virus should be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B. The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases recommends ultrasound surveillance for hepatocellular carcinoma in persons with chronic hepatitis C virus infection and cirrhosis.