Screening for Hepatitis C Virus Infection | Guidelines | JAMA | JAMA Network
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JAMA Patient Page
March 2, 2020

Screening for Hepatitis C Virus Infection

JAMA. 2020;323(10):1008. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.1761

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recently published recommendations on screening for hepatitis C virus infection in adults.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a virus that infects and harms the liver. It is mostly transmitted by blood. Sexual transmission can also occur, but the risk of this is very low. In the United States, the most important risk factor for HCV infection is past or current injection drug use.

Most people do not have symptoms when they are first infected with HCV. If symptoms do occur, they are generally mild and can include yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice), abdominal pain, and nausea. Initial infection is called acute HCV. Although some people recover fully from acute HCV, most are not able to clear the virus from their body and as a result develop chronic HCV. In people with chronic HCV, the virus stays in the liver permanently and can cause nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, and general malaise or no symptoms at all. Over the course of years to decades, chronic HCV can lead to liver cirrhosis or failure (resulting in the need for liver transplantation), liver cancer, and death.