What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C virus is a member of the Flavivirus family or ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses and is caused by the hepatitis C virus. The virus produces by making many copies of itself in liver cells.
The hepatitis C virus does not kill liver cells directly, but the immune response initiated by the virus can cause liver inflammation and cell death.
Prevalence of Hepatitis C
Approximately 260,000 Australians have been exposed to hepatitis C. The majority of people with hepatitis C are aged between 20 and 39 years and 35% of national notifications are women.
Reference: National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR) (2006). ‘Estimates and projections of the hepatitis C virus epidemic in Australia'
How is it transmitted?
Hepatitis C is not commonly transmitted through unprotected sex, but is spread through blood-to-blood contact. The most common way people become infected in Australia is through unsafe injecting drug use. Transmissions also occur through un-sterile tattooing or body piercing procedures, through un-sterile medical procedures, through sharing personal items such as razors/toothbrushes and through accidental exposure to infected blood. Additionally woman with hepatitis C can also pass the virus onto her baby during childbirth.
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