Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer. Hepatitis C is thought to be the most common cause of chronic hepatitis and affects about 1% of the Australian community.
People acquire hepatitis C by contact with infected blood. It is commonly spread through sharing unsterile needles, syringes and other injecting drug equipment. Some people contracted hepatitis C through blood transfusion or receiving infected blood products before they were effectively screened in the 1990s.
Hepatitis C is chronic when the body cannot get rid of the hepatitis C virus. Although some people clear the virus from their bodies in a few months, many hepatitis C infections become chronic.
Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C can cause scarring of the liver or cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.
* Hepatitis A, B and C are caused by different viruses so catching one does not offer immunity against the others.