Hepatitis C: 25 Years of Discovery

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus. Since the virus was discovered in 1989, significant public health and research advances have led to great progress in curbing new infections and developing life-saving treatment options. Unfortunately, millions of Americans continue to live with this disease and most don’t know they are infected. Explore this timeline to learn more about the highlights and milestones from the past 25 years of Hepatitis C discovery.

Illustration of Hepatitis C virusDiscovery of Hepatitis C Virus

The Hepatitis C virus was discovered by scientists at CDC, NIH and industry. Following the discovery, the Hepatitis C virus was identified as the cause of nearly all cases of non-A, non-B Hepatitis in the United States.

Illustration of RXFirst Hepatitis C Treatment Approved

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first-ever treatment for Hepatitis C. Unfortunately, the initial treatment resulted in very few people clearing the virus.

Illustration of two drops of bloodU.S. Blood Supply Safe from Hepatitis C Virus

Routine testing of the U.S. blood supply for Hepatitis C began in 1990. By 1992, more sensitive testing virtually eliminated the Hepatitis C virus from all blood banks in the United States.

Illustration of graph with line indicating that number of cases delinced from 1989 to 1996Hepatitis C Infections Continue to Dramatically Decline

In less than 10 years following the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, the annual number of reported new Hepatitis C infections declines by more than 80 percent. Many believe AIDS education and new infection control practices also helped decrease exposure to the Hepatitis C virus.

Illustration of MMWR reportCDC Expands Hepatitis C Testing Recommendations

CDC issues broader recommendations for the prevention of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and testing people at risk for HCV infection.

Illustration of a graph with number of deaths lines for HIV and Hepatitis C, showing number for HIV declining from 2003 to 2008 and increasing for Hep c.Deaths from Hepatitis C Surpass HIV in U.S.

While rates of new Hepatitis C infections decline, deaths due to Hepatitis C surpass deaths due to HIV for the first time. Deaths from Hepatitis C continue to rise while deaths from HIV continue to fall.

Illustration of IOM reportInstitute of Medicine Report Issued

CDC, along with other partners, commissioned the IOM to examine the prevention and control of viral hepatitis infections in the United States. The report Hepatitis and Liver Cancer: A National Strategy for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis B and C was released January 11, 2010.

Illustration for World Hepatitis Day Action Plan released and July 28th declared World Hepatitis Day

HHS released the nation’s first comprehensive cross-agency plan, Combating the Silent Epidemic of Viral Hepatitis: Action Plan for the Prevention, Care, & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis. Additionally, in light of the global burden of Hepatitis C, which impacts approximately 150-170 million people worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) and President Obama declare July 28th as World Hepatitis Day.

Illustration which reads Anyone Born 1945-1965CDC Recommends Testing All Baby Boomers for Hepatitis C and celebrates first National Testing Day

CDC issues recommendations for one-time testing for Hepatitis C for everyone born 1945-1965. Data shows that those born from 1945 – 1965 account for 75 percent of all Hepatitis C infections in the United States and 73 percent of Hepatitis C-associated mortality. The inaugural National Hepatitis Testing Day was celebrated on May 19, 2012.

Illustration of plaque with 25th anniversary on it.Realizing the potential of an all–oral cure

Outcomes such as advanced liver disease and/or hepatocellular cancer can be prevented with treatment, which is rapidly improving. New treatment options offer the potential of a cure to more patients than has been previously possible.

Download a printable version Cdc-pdf[PDF – 1 page]  of the timeline.