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Hepatitis C is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver. It is spread most frequently when a person comes in contact with infected blood. The disease is caused by infection with a particular virus -- approximately 300 million people worldwide are infected with this virus, and 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C. Treatment, when recommended, often involves two or three medications.

What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver. While different things can cause other types of hepatitis, a specific virus -- the hepatitis C virus -- causes hepatitis C. This virus is also known as HCV.

Acute Versus Chronic Hepatitis C

There are two types of hepatitis C: acute and chronic. In acute hepatitis C, the body is able to completely kill the hepatitis C virus. This happens in about 15 percent of people infected with the virus. In about 85 percent of people infected with HCV, the body is not able to completely get rid of the virus and they end up having a long-term liver infection. This is called chronic hepatitis C.


Just as there are different types of hepatitis viruses, there are also a few different types of the hepatitis C virus itself. These are known as hepatitis C genotypes. The main hepatitis C genotypes are known simply as: genotypes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. The genotype is important to know because some genotypes are harder to treat than others.
(The eMedTV article Following Your Hepatitis C Treatment Program explains why knowing the specific genotype of the hepatitis C virus is important.)
Of the different genotypes, genotype 1 is the type most commonly found in the United States. Between 70 and 90 percent of Americans with hepatitis C have this genotype. Genotypes 2 and 3 are less common. Only 10 to 20 percent of infected people in this country have either of these genotypes.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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