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Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver that has a propensity to cause chronic liver damage and may sometimes lead to liver cancer. Up to 3% of the world's population is infected with hepatitis C. The virus is usually transmitted by exposure to infected blood (i.e. by transfusions or by contaminated needles). Less frequently, the disease is acquired through sexual intercourse or passed from mother to infant at birth. The infection is not usually transmitted from person to person in the absence of sexual contact or needle sharing. The symptoms of hepatitis C may include fever, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and malaise, but most cases are asymptomatic. The disease, when chronic, may be treated with interferon and ribavirin.
Most travelers are at low risk for hepatitis C. There is no vaccine at this time. Prevention depends upon avoiding needle sharing and unprotected sex, as well as shunning procedures such as tattooing, body piercing, and scarification that may lead to hepatitis C if equipment is not properly sterilized. In countries where blood is not screened for hepatitis C, all possible efforts should be made to avoid receiving transfusions.
From the World Health Organization (WHO)
Hepatitis C (brief introduction)
Hepatitis C: global prevalence (update) (PDF). Weekly Epidemiological Record, Vol. 75, 3, 2000
Hepatitis C: global prevalence (PDF). Weekly Epidemiological Record, Vol. 72, 46, 1997
Hepatitis C (PDF). Weekly Epidemiological Record, Vol. 72, 10, 1997
From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
From the UK Health Protection Agency
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