Disease Progression

About 15 to 25 percent of persons with acute hepatitis C resolve their infection without further problems. The remainder develop a chronic infection and about 60 to 70 percent of these persons develop chronic hepatitis. Cirrhosis of the liver develops in 10 to 20 percent of persons with chronic hepatitis C over a period of 20-30 years, and hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) in 1 to 5 percent. For individuals with cirrhosis, however, the rate of development of liver cancer might be as high as 1 to 4 percent per year.

Chronic liver disease is the 9th leading cause of death among adults in the United States. It is estimated that 40 to 60 percent of chronic liver disease is due to hepatitis C (resulting in an estimated 8,000-10,000 deaths) and another 10 to 15 percent is due to chronic hepatitis B.

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HCV-associated chronic liver disease is also the most frequent indication for liver transplantation among adults. It is estimated that less than 3% of persons may die from the consequences of long term HCV infection (liver cancer or cirrhosis).

Additionally, because alcohol use is one of the most important contributing factors to progression of chronic liver disease among persons with hepatitis C, it is important to identify infected individuals as early as possible so that they can be counseled to limit alcohol consumption and be offered treatment if appropriate

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