If I'm infected with hepatitis C and not treated, how likely is the infection to become chronic?

Answer From Stacey A. Rizza, M.D.

The period right after you're infected with hepatitis C virus is known as the acute stage of infection. Some people with acute hepatitis C do not progress to the chronic stage of infection. This is called spontaneous viral clearance. Rates of spontaneous viral clearance vary somewhat from study to study, from as low as 15% to as high as 50% — though the average is around 25%.

Unfortunately, there's no way to predict whether you'll be one of the lucky ones who will escape chronic hepatitis C. Even if doctors could make such a prediction, it wouldn't help most people with early hepatitis C because the acute infection rarely causes signs and symptoms.

Further research may explain exactly how spontaneous hepatitis C virus clearance occurs, paving the way for treatment and vaccine development.

With

Stacey A. Rizza, M.D.

Nov. 05, 2019 See more Expert Answers