According to the World Health Organization, hepatitis C is spread through blood. Most commonly this occurs through sharing contaminated needles, being transfused with contaminated blood or blood products or improper sterilization of medical equipment. Rarely, hepatitis C can pass between mother and child during pregnancy or delivery. It can also be contracted during unprotected sexual activity with an infected partner.
As of 2014, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. To prevent the spread of the virus, WebMD recommends that individuals use latex condoms during sex and refrain from sharing personal items, such as razors, that have the potential to be contaminated with blood. Equipment that is reused during tattooing and piercing can also spread the virus.
A hepatitis C infection can be categorized as either acute or chronic. World Health Organization states that those with acute hepatitis C usually have no symptoms and up to 45 percent of cases of acute hepatitis resolve with no medical intervention. Those cases that do not resolve naturally become chronic infections with 15 to 30 percent resulting in cirrhosis of the liver within 20 years.
World Health Organization claims a 50 to 90 percent cure rate of hepatitis C using a combination of antiviral drugs, but up to half of a million people still die annually worldwide from the disease. Because treatment is more effective in the early stages of hepatitis C, it is recommended that those who participate in high-risk activities be tested for the virus regularly.