An acute hepatitis C infection does not always lead to a chronic hepatitis C infection. But since more than half of people with an acute infection go on to develop a chronic infection, acute hepatitis C is serious.
Acute hepatitis C can be treated, which greatly reduces the risk of chronic infection. However, acute hepatitis C usually causes no symptoms, so diagnosis and treatment are rarely made.
Acute hepatitis C develops two weeks to six months after the hepatitis C virus enters the blood. Among the small number of people who become ill during the acute infection, signs and symptoms include:
yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
Pain in the upper right part of the abdomen
These signs and symptoms last from two to twelve weeks.
Who is at risk of contracting the hepatitis C virus?
Most acute hepatitis C infections today occur in people who share needles to inject drugs or who have unprotected sex. Healthcare professionals who prick themselves with needles are also at risk.
Diagnose quickly for the right treatment
If you think you have recently been exposed to the hepatitis C virus, it is important to get tested immediately. Blood tests to detect hepatitis C virus proteins, followed by a subsequent test to detect antibodies to the virus, usually can distinguish an acute infection from a chronic infection. Knowing that you have an acute infection with the hepatitis C virus can make a difference in the choice of treatment.