Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes both acute and chronic infection. Acute HCV infection is usually asymptomatic, and is only very rarely associated with life-threatening disease. The incubation period for hepatitis C is 2 weeks to 6 months. Following initial infection, approximately 80% of people do not exhibit any symptoms. Those who are acutely symptomatic may exhibit fever, fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of skin and the whites of the eyes).
Hepatitis C caused due to contact with contaminated blood or needles used to inject illegal drugs or draw tattoos.
HCV infection is diagnosed in 2 steps: Screening for anti-HCV antibodies with a serological test identifies people who have been infected with the virus. If the test is positive for anti-HCV antibodies, a nucleic acid test for HCV RNA is needed to confirm chronic HCV infection.
Hepatitis C does not always require treatment as the immune response in some people will clear the infection, and some people with chronic infection do not develop liver damage. Each of the hepatitis viruses causes similar liver damage. The inflammatory process is activated throughout the whole liver, and hepatocytes are destroyed by cytotoxic and natural killer cells, both parts of the inflammatory process. Cellular necrosis takes place. If inflammation affects the periportal areas, cholestasis, or the interruption of the flow of bile takes place.
Hepatitis C in Russia mostly affects people who inject drugs (PWID), among which, according to the most conservative estimates, as much as 1.3 million people are infected. Sentinel surveillance data show extreme HCV prevalence rates among PWID, in some cities ranging from 45% to 90% (mid-range estimate – 69%). According to UN Reference Group, estimates of the number of IDUs living with HCV in Russia range from 985,500 to 1,770,250 (2008), with a mid-range estimate of about 1.3 mln (2011).