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FAQ : HCV Test

Views:3     Author:Site Editor     Publish Time: 2019-03-20      Origin:Division of Viral Hepatitis, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention

HCV Tests


Who should get tested for hepatitis C?

CDC recommends hepatitis C testing for:

  • Current or former injection drug users, including those who injected only once many years ago

  • Everyone born from 1945  to 1965

  • Anyone who received clotting factor concentrates made before 1987

  • Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants prior to July 1992

  • Long-term hemodialysis patients

  • People with known exposures to the hepatitis C virus, such as

  • Health care workers or public safety workers after needle sticks involving blood from someone infected with hepatitis C virus

  • Recipients of blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for the hepatitis C virus

  • People with HIV infection

  • Children born to mothers with hepatitis C

Other experts, including a group that helps set health policies in the United States, called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends hepatitis C virus testingExternal for additional groups including:

  • People in jails or prisons

  • People who use drugs snorted through the nose (in addition to people who inject drugs),

  • People who get an unregulated tattoo


If I am pregnant, should I be tested for hepatitis C?

Getting tested for hepatitis C is not part of routine prenatal care. However, if you are a pregnant woman who has risk factors for hepatitis C virus infection, you should speak to your doctor about getting tested.


Should a woman with hepatitis C virus infection avoid breastfeeding?

No. There is no evidence that breastfeeding spreads hepatitis C virus. Precautions may be considered if a mothers with hepatitis C has cracked or bleeding nipples because there is not enough information on the risks of transmission when this happens.


What blood tests are used to test for hepatitis C?

The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to get tested and you may need more than one type of test. A blood test, called a hepatitis C antibody test, can tell if you have ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus. Antibodies are chemicals released into the bloodstream when someone gets infected. Another test, called a hepatitis C virus RNA test, can tell if you have a current infection with the hepatitis C virus. RNA is the virus’ genetic material.


What blood tests are used to test for hepatitis C?

The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to get tested and you may need more than one type of test. A blood test, called a hepatitis C antibody test, can tell if you have ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus. Antibodies are chemicals released into the bloodstream when someone gets infected. Another test, called a hepatitis C virus RNA test, can tell if you have a current infection with the hepatitis C virus. RNA is the virus’ genetic material.


How do I interpret the results of hepatitis C anti-body test?

There are two possible antibody test results:

Non-reactive, or a negative, means that a person has never had hepatitis C. However, if a person has been recently exposed to the hepatitis C virus, he or she will need to be tested again.

Reactive, or a positive, means that hepatitis C antibodies were found in the blood and a person has been infected with the hepatitis C virus at some point in time. A reactive antibody test does not necessarily mean a person has hepatitis C. Once someone has been infected, they will always have antibodies in their blood. This is true if even if they have cleared the hepatitis C virus.

A reactive antibody test requires an additional test, called a hepatitis C virus RNA test (or PCR), to confirm whether the virus is still present in the person’s bloodstream.


How soon after exposure to the hepatitis C virus can the antibody test tell if someone is infected?

For most people exposed to the hepatitis C virus, the HCV antibody blood test will be positive in 4–10 weeks. About 97% of people infected will have a positive HCV antibody test 6 months after exposure.


How soon after exposure to the hepatitis C virus can hepatitis C virus be detected by a hepatitis C virus RNA (PCR) test?

A special kind of blood test called a hepatitis C virus RNA test (or PCR) can tell if a person is infected in 2–3 weeks after exposure.


Can a person have normal liver enzyme (e.g., ALT) level and still have hepatitis C?

Yes. It is common for persons with chronic hepatitis C to have a liver enzyme level that goes up and down, with periodic returns to normal or near normal. Some people with hepatitis C have liver enzyme levels that are normal for over a year even though they have chronic liver disease.


Treatment


What is the treatment for acute hepatitis C?

There is not a recommended treatment for acute hepatitis C. People with acute hepatitis C virus infection should be followed by a doctor and only considered for treatment if their infection remains and becomes a chronic infection.


What is the treatment for chronic hepatitis C?

There are several medications available to treat chronic hepatitis C. Hepatitis C treatments have gotten much better in recent years. Current treatments usually involve just 8-12 weeks of oral therapy (pills) and cure over 90% of people with few side effects. For a complete list of currently approved FDA treatments for hepatitis C, please visit http://www.hepatitisc.uw.edu/page/treatment/drugsExternal.


What can a person with chronic hepatitis C do to take care of his or her liver?

First, people with chronic hepatitis C should talk to their doctor about treatments, even if they have been treated for hepatitis C in the past. For people with cirrhosis, there is a continued risk of liver cancer even after hepatitis C virus infection is cured. People with chronic hepatitis C, and people with cirrhosis (even if they have been cured for hepatitis C) should be monitored regularly by a doctor and be vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B. People with chronic hepatitis C should avoid alcohol because it can cause additional liver damage. They also should check with their doctor before taking any prescription pills, herbs, supplements, or over-the-counter medications, as these can potentially damage the liver.


Vaccination


Is there a vaccine that can prevent hepatitis C?

No. Research into the development of a vaccine for hepatitis C is under way. Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and hepatitis B.


Hepatitis C and Employment


Should a person infected with the hepatitis C virus be restricted from working in certain jobs or settings?

CDC’s recommendations for prevention and control of the hepatitis C virus infection state that people should not be excluded from work, school, play, child care, or other settings because they have hepatitis C virus infection. There is no evidence that people can get hepatitis C from food handlers, teachers, or other service providers without blood-to-blood contact.


Hepatitis C and Co-infection with HIV


Can a person be infected with HIV and the hepatitis C virus?

Yes, a person can be infected with both HIV and hepatitis C virus. This is sometimes called “coinfection.” To learn more about coinfection, read HIV and Viral Hepatitis 


Content source: Division of Viral Hepatitis, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention


Reference Web: www.cdc.gov


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