Medical Overview and Epidemiology

Hepatitis C is a common blood-borne infection that when left untreated can lead to cirrhosis, hepatic encephalopathy, and death and is a leading cause of chronic liver disease, liver transplantation, and hepatocellular carcinoma (Saunders 2008). The presentation of hepatitis C infection is variable, with most acutely infected people being asymptomatic (70%-80%), although they may have elevated liver enzymes. The most common symptoms of acute infection include fever, malaise, loss of appetite, jaundice, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, dark urine, and joint pain (Dieperink et al. 2000). With chronic infection, the most common presentations include jaundice, encephalopathy, or ascites. In the pediatric population, those who use injectable drugs and those born to infected mothers are at highest risk, with approximately 4% of children born to mothers with hepatitis C going on to develop hepatitis C (Saunders 2008).

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