Hepatitis C virus can cause: (a) acute HCV infection, (b) chronic HCV infection, and (c) cirrhosis and other complica-tions induced by hepatitis. The incubation period of hepatitis C varies from 15 to 60 days with an average period of approxi-mately 8 weeks.
Most patients with acute HCV infections are symptomatic and do not develop any jaundice. The symptoms of acute HCV infection tend to be mild and may appear similar to those of HBV infections. In symptomatic cases, jaundice occurs in less than 25% of acutely infected patients, whereas hepatomegaly is seen in one-third of cases. But most of the cases (80%) are asymptomatic and do not develop any jaundice.
Hepatitis C virus is a major cause of chronic hepatitis worldwide. Most patients with chronic hepatitis are asymptomatic and may have nonspecific symptoms, such as fatigue or malaise in the absence of hepatic synthesis dysfunction.
Hepatitis C virus is now a leading cause of hepatitis and cirrhosis. An estimated 20% of patients with chronic hepatitis progress to cirrhosis. This process may take an average of 20 years after initial infection worldwide. Patients with this condition have a secondary risk of liver failure, portal hypertension, and other complications.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is one of the most important complications in 1–5% of patients with underlying cirrhosis. This condition usually develops after 30 years in patients who are chronically infected and have cirrhosis. The increased total number of deaths due to HCV-related complications, such as cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, has been reported from many countries.