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World J Gastroenterol. May 7, 2007; 13(17): 2436-2441
Published online May 7, 2007. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v13.i17.2436
Epidemiology of hepatitis C virus infection
Miriam J Alter
Miriam J Alter, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas USA 77555, United States
Author contributions: All authors contributed equally to the work.
Correspondence to: Miriam J Alter, PhD, University of Texas Medical Branch, Mail Route 0435, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, Texas 77555, United States.
Telephone: +1-409-7470229 Fax: +1-409-7470220
Received: January 31, 2007
Revised: February 2, 2007
Accepted: February 13, 2007
Published online: May 7, 2007

Globally, hepatitis C virus (HCV) has infected an estimated 130 million people, most of whom are chronically infected. HCV-infected people serve as a reservoir for transmission to others and are at risk for developing chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and primary hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). It has been estimated that HCV accounts for 27% of cirrhosis and 25% of HCC worldwide. HCV infection has likely been endemic in many populations for centuries. However, the wave of increased HCV-related morbidity and mortality that we are now facing is the result of an unprecedented increase in the spread of HCV during the 20th century. Two 20th century events appear to be responsible for this increase; the widespread availability of injectable therapies and the illicit use of injectable drugs.

Keywords: Hepatitis C virus, Global epidemiology, Incidence, Prevalence, Transmission, Natural history