The hepatitis C virus was discovered in 1989 and was initially referred to as a "not-A-not-B" hepatitis virus. The virus is a single-stranded, enveloped, positive sense RNA virus in the flavivirus family.
Hepatitis C infects an estimated 170 million persons worldwide and 3.9 million persons in the United States. Co-infection with HIV is common and rates among HIV positive populations are higher.
The infection is spread by blood exchange and sexual contact. Before serological tests became available, it was often caused by the use of medical products derived from blood, and by blood transfusion.
Although it can be spread sexually, and vertically (from mother to child), transmission by these routes is not as likely as with hepatitis B. In most developed countries, it is usually seen primarily in intravenous drug users.
Alternative therapies are proposed that can perhaps be considered ways to reduce the liver's duties, rather than treat the virus itself. This will not affect the course of the disease or quality of life of the person.
See also: sexually transmitted disease