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Hepatitis C: 5 Facts Every African American Needs To Know

What is hepatitis C?

According to the CDC, hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. It is caused by infection by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.”

Acute Hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection.

Chronic Hepatitis C virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the hepatitis C virus remains in a person’s body. Hepatitis C virus infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.

While there are vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and B, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Also, if a person has had one type of viral hepatitis in the past, it is still possible to get the other types.

As with many other diseases and conditions, hepatitis C disproportionately affects the black community. In fact:

  • 75% of those with HCV are unaware of their status
  • African American boomers are twice as likely to have hepatitis C than other baby boomers

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