A Silent Disease and Growing Concern

Globally, an estimated 71 million people are living with chronic hepatitis C infection.
Most don't know it.


Chronic hepatitis C is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) that over time, can lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or death.

One of the challenges of managing hepatitis C is that people with HCV often have no symptoms -- and can live with an infection for decades without feeling sick.


Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. It results from infection with HCV, which is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. Hepatitis C can be either "acute" or "chronic."

Acute HCV infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months of exposure to HCV. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection.

Chronic HCV infection is a long-term illness that occurs when HCV remains in a person's body. HCV infection can lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or death.

Before 1992, when widespread screening of the blood supply began in the U.S., hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Today, most people in the U.S. become infected with HCV by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. The presence of HCV can be detected with a simple blood test from a healthcare provider. The CDC recommends any person with a potential risk factor, including anyone born between 1945 - 1965, get tested for chronic HCV.

Decades can pass between the time of acquiring HCV infection and the development of HCV-related liver disease such as cirrhosis.

(Source: CDC and WHO)


Your liver is the largest organ inside your body. It helps your body digest food, store energy, and remove poisons.

You can take care of your liver by:


Eating a healthy diet and exercising


Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink


Avoiding breathing in or touching toxins from cleaning and aerosol products, insecticides, chemicals and additives in cigarettes

The prevalence of cirrhosis in people living with chronic HCV infection is expected to increase over the next 10 years.

This growing burden of HCV on individuals, communities and healthcare systems has pushed the global scientific community to find ways to fight chronic HCV infection.


The hepatitis C virus was first identified in 1989. Many people in the U.S. were infected through blood transfusions and organ donations before HCV testing in blood banks was established in 1992.

Dr. Eliav Barr

Dr. Eliav Barr, vice president, Infectious
Disease, MSD Research Laboratories

People got infected and usually didn't know it because the acute infection is typically asymptomatic, said Dr. Eliav Barr, vice president, Infectious Disease, MSD Research Laboratories.

After prolonged infection, 20-25 years or so, people were presenting with advanced liver damage. A huge cohort of baby boomers got infected, didn't know it, are gradually getting diagnosed and finding their disease is advancing. This is an ongoing problem.

Over the past 25 years, step by step, the world's scientific community has increased its understanding of the virus - and that breakthrough science continues.

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