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The Hepatitis C virus

What kind of virus is this
First this virus is only found in humans. That means the reservoir for this virus is humans and not other animals. Visit Wikipedia

What does it do?

A person with this virus means that the person is infected with this virus. The virus primarily infects the liver. Overtime, the virus can cause damage to the liver. Less than 5% of the people who get infected will have severe liver disease, liver failure or liver cancer. Everyone else may completely recover from the virus and no longer have virus in their blood or may have some liver problems but most likely will not die from liver failure or liver cancer.

Virus in the blood

However, the virus while infecting the liver will spill out of the liver and into the blood system and be carried throughout the body. The virus in the blood can infect another person if they come into contact with the blood from the infected person.

Virus outside the body

Virus outside of the body would be in their blood or other body tissues. For example, if a person infected with the virus is bleeding this blood will have virus in it. That is, this blood is contaminated with the virus.

If someone bleeds on you, just wash the blood off. It’s best to wash the blood off with soap and water. If the blood had virus in it, the soap and water will destroy the virus.

The hepatitis C virus is fragile

Soap and water will destroy hepatitis C virus. Remove or wash blood off with soap and water. Hand sanitizers, like Purell, that contains alcohol or just alcohol will destroy the virus. Any disinfectant will destroy HCV. 

All doctors and dentists and their assistants should always wash their hands with soap and water before they examine you or treat you. All of the medical instruments including needles and syringes must be sterile.

What does this viurs look like.

The figure below is an electron micrographic of the Hepatitis C virus. Wikipedia, has has an excellent section describing the virus, its type, how it replicates inside the cells of the liver, its genomic make up, and how it was discovered. See Wikipedia.

For many years this virus was a mystery. It was known that hepatitis or infection and inflammation of the liver was caused by hepatitis A virus (HAV) which was spread  from person to person in contaminated food and water. Also hepatitis could be caused by hepatitis B virus (HBV), a completely different viurs which could be spread
by contaminated blood and thus called a blood borne pathogen. HBV could also be readily spread by sex and from mother to new born.

Another hepatitis identified more than three decades ago that was not HAV or HBV and was called Non A Non B or NANB.

The viral genome of HCV is RNA, very small, does not generate a cDNA interminate, and has been sequenced as shown below.

Due to the structure of the vial genome, the virus is genetically very unstable and mutates rapidly.  This means that the virus can quickly become resistant to anit-viral agents making treatment  more difficult. In addition, with rapid mutation making an effective vaccine will also be a challange.

Models provided by L. E. Henderson