Hepatitis C virus (HCV)

Chronic Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). The virus is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. As a result, some people are at particular risk of infection, including drug users, people who had tattoos in unsanitary conditions, people who have unprotected intercourse and sexual practices that are prone to injury, and people who are at risk of being infected at work.

An infection with Hepatitis C often goes undetected for a long time, because in about three out of four cases those affected have no or only unspecific, flu-like symptoms.1 This makes the disease difficult to diagnose and often prevents timely treatment. It can take years or even decades before a diagnosis is made. Virus carriers without a diagnosis can unknowingly infect other people. It is therefore important that the doctor tests for Hepatitis C if symptoms are suspicious, especially in combination with elevated liver values. If left untreated, chronic Hepatitis C can have serious health consequences: up to 20% of chronic HCV patients develop liver cirrhosis2 within 20 years, which in the end stage can lead to liver failure. Liver cell cancer is also a possible long-term consequence of the infection.

Globally, an estimated 58 million people have chronic hepatitis C infection, with about 1.5 million new infections occuring per year.3 In Belgium, an estimated 18,000 people are infected and no fewer than 300 patients that suffer from the effects of their infection die each year.4

Until a few years ago, HCV infection was a chronic and difficult to treat disease. But modern, direct antiviral drugs (DAAs) have revolutionized the therapy of hepatitis C and significantly improved the patient's perspective: With these therapies, Hepatitis C can be cured in almost every patient.

  1. Robert-Koch-Institut, Epidemiologisches Bulletin, Nr. 30/2017, 27. Juli 2017.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HCV/HCVfaq.htm#b1 (consulted on 5th of July 2021).
  3. World Health Organization (WHO). Fact sheet Hepatitis C; Version 27. July 2021; https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-c (last assessed - August 2021)
  4. “Belgium hepatitis free in 2030” door de Belgische coalitie tegen HCV, oktober 2020. Online available on www.basl.be.

AbbVie SA/NV - BE-ABBV-210074 (v1.0) - August 2021