Two types of hepatitis virus cause persistent infection leading to chronic viral hepatitis and cirrhosis; Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Together these affect 500 million people worldwide. Again, the figures on HCV infection in the United States from the Center for Disease Control are startling:
- · In the USA, approximately 3.2 million people already have chronic HCV infection;
- · Of those infected, 60-70% will develop chronic liver disease, and 5-20% will develop liver cirrhosis over a period of 20-30 years;
- · HCV is the leading cause of liver transplantation, and accounts for approximately 50% of new cases of HCC, which is the fastest growing cancer-related mortality;
- · These numbers are all projected to increase substantially over the next decade.
- · Outside the USA, the World Health Organization factsheet on HCV describes the worldwide burden of this disease:
- · Each year, 3–4 million people are infected with HCV.
- · About 150 million people are chronically infected with HCV, and more than 350 000 people die every year from HCV-related liver diseases.
- · There is wide variation geographically; countries with high rates of chronic HCV infection include: China (3.2%, 43 Million people), Pakistan (4.8%, 8.7 Million), and Egypt (15%, 10.6 Million people).