Few details are known about the pathogenesis of hepatitis C. Infection generally occurs from exposure to contaminated blood. The incubation period averages about 6 weeks (range, 2 weeks to 6 months). Despite the lack of symptoms in most people with acute infection, more than 80% develop chronic infections. The virus infects the liver and incites inflammatory and immune responses. The disease process in the liver waxes and wanes, at times seeming to return to normal, then weeks or months later showing marked inflammation. After months or years, cirrhosis and liver cancer develop in 10% to 20% of patients.

624 Chapter 24 Alimentary System Infections

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