Hepatitis C has been referred to as a "Silent Epidemic," since it usually progresses slowly over many years. Most people who are infected with hepatitis C are not aware of any noticeable symptoms for as long as one to two decades after they are infected. In fact, by the time symptoms appear, the virus has probably already begun to damage the liver. If the liver is injured and stops functioning, death will always be the outcome (Lieber). Liver failure from chronic hepatitis C is one of the most common causes of liver transplants in the United States.
Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver’s cells and tissues caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Hepatitis C virus is blood-borne, which means it is spread through blood and blood products (Grady). After the discovery of hepatitis A virus in 1973 and hepatitis B in 1963, any cases of acute or chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis without identifiable causes were placed into the category of non-A non-B (NANB) hepatitis(Palmer108) . In 1989, a major breakthrough regarding this mysterious and intriguing disease occurred, the hepatitis C virus was identified. Now, most hepatitis C viruses are believed to be the viruses responsible for about 90 percent of all cases of NANB.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.8% of the U.S. population, or 3.9 million Americans, have been infected with this chronic blood-borne virus. About 50,000 new cases of hepatitis C are estimated to occur in the United States each year. Without proper and effective treatment the death rate is expected to triple in the next fifteen years (Turkington 9). Seventy-five percent of those infected with the virus will develop chronic hepatitis and half of those people will develop cirrhosis of the liver
Due to the fact that Hepatitis C is blood-borne there are many ways a person can contract HCV, and many types of people who are more prone to it than others. The most effective mode of transmission is when an infected persons blood gets into the bloodstream of another person. HCV can only enter the bloodstream by first getting through the protective covering skin, this is called percutaneous route. Common routes of infection include needle stick accidents among healthcare workers, shared needles that are used during body piercing, injecting illegal drugs, and tattooing (Turkington 19).
Another common way is through blood transfusions. Since labs did not start testing blood for the hepatitis C virus until 1990 many people received contaminated blood (Turkington 19). After 1992 blood banks began screening the blood for the hepatics C virus. According to Dr. Palmer on page 117 she states, that it has been estimated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that almost 300,000 Americans have contracted HCV prior to the advent of screening of donated blood and blood product for HIV.
Today, the incidence of obtaining this virus by receiving a blood transfusion is approximately 1 in 200,000 units...