Hepatitis C is a virus that often silently attacks your liver. Hepatitis C is one of six identified hepatitis viruses — the others are A, B, D, E and G. All cause the liver to become inflamed, which interferes with its ability to function. Hepatitis C is generally considered to be among the most serious of these viruses. Most people infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) have no symptoms at all. In fact, most people don’t know they have the disease until liver damage shows up, decades later, during routine medical tests. Although vaccines exist for hepatitis A and B, no vaccine for hepatitis C has been developed.
Over time, if you have a hepatitis C infection, it can lead to liver cancer, liver failure or cirrhosis — irreversible and potentially fatal scarring of the liver. Unlike HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the hepatitis C virus usually isn’t transmitted through sexual contact. Instead, you’re more at risk if you’re exposed to contaminated blood — through needles shared during drug use or through blood transfusions.