Is acute hepatitis C infection serious?


Acute hepatitis C infection doesn't always lead to chronic hepatitis C infection. But because a large majority of people with the acute infection go on to chronic infection, acute hepatitis C is serious.

Fortunately, acute hepatitis C can be treated, greatly reducing the risk of chronic infection. Unfortunately, acute hepatitis C usually causes no symptoms, so diagnosis and treatment rarely occur.

Acute hepatitis C develops two weeks to six months after the hepatitis C virus enters your bloodstream. In the small proportion of people who get sick during the acute infection, signs and symptoms include:

  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine
  • White-colored stool
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the upper right part of the abdomen

These signs and symptoms last for two to 12 weeks.

Most acute hepatitis C infections today occur in people who share needles to inject drugs. Health care workers who have needle-stick injuries also are at risk.

If you think you've recently been exposed to the hepatitis C virus, it's important to get tested right away. Blood tests to detect hepatitis C virus proteins, followed by a later test to detect antibodies to the virus, can usually distinguish acute from chronic infection. Having an acute hepatitis C infection makes a difference in the choice of treatment.

Last Updated: 08-09-2017
content provided by
© 1998-2020 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.