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Viral Hepatitis

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What happens to people with hepatitis C?

for Veterans and the Public

What happens to people with hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C, or HCV, replicates in the liver. During this process, parts of the virus trigger your immune system into action. In the process of trying to rid your body of the HCV infection, the immune system actually kills infected liver cells. Over a slow process of many years, the interaction between the immune system and your liver can result in scarring of the liver and loss of liver function.

Most people who are infected with hepatitis C develop a chronic infection with the virus. But for some people, their body gets rid of the virus on its own very early after they are first infected. More than half of people with hepatitis C will never have any health problems from it. The disease generally progresses slowly, over the course of 10 to 40 years.

Here is a snapshot of the long-term effects of hepatitis C.

Out of 100 people who get hepatitis C:

  • 15 will get rid of the virus without any treatment
  • 85 will develop a chronic infection

Of those 85 who have a chronic infection:

  • About 17 will develop liver cirrhosis in their lifetime
  • About 2 will develop liver cancer