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, grey-coloured faeces, joint pain and 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 cytokines 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. In 2013, 32 512 cases of hepatitis C were reported in 26 EU/ EEA Member States, a crude rate of 9.9 per 100 000 population. Of cases reported in 2013, 608 (1.9%) were reported as ‘acute’, 5736 (17.6%) as ‘chronic’, 23 230 (71.5%) as ‘unknown’ and 2 938 cases (9.0%) were not classified due to incompatible data format.