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Hepatitis C – Testing

October 30, 2020


How do you know if you need to be tested for hepatitis C? Because of the burden of disease is quite high in this country, there has been talks of universal screening for all adults in the US. However, such recommendation has not been widely adopted. So if you find yourself in any of the following categories, you should ask your doctor to get tested. Those include baby boomers born between 1945 to 1965. As we mentioned earlier, recipient of blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992, all pregnant women, people on blood dialysis, people with HIV, injection drug users, and children born to mothers with hepatitis C infection. Getting tested for hepatitis C is actually very simple. It involves a blood test called a hepatitis C antibody test, which tells you whether your body has ever been exposed to the virus at any point in your life. It is typically reported as either positive or negative.

If your result is negative, no further action is required. As this means you have never been exposed to hepatitis C virus. However, if the result is positive, you will need to undergo further evaluation to see if there’s still virus living inside your body. The followup test to a positive antibody test is a PCR test. Also known as the viral load. This is to test for actual copies of the virus circulating your bloodstream. If any amount of the virus is detected in your blood, you are considered to have active infection at the time of testing. Once you are confirmed to have active hepatitis C infection, depending on when you suspect to have gotten the infection you have, your doctor may or may not pursue treatment right away. If you suspect that you were just exposed to the virus recently, the standard of practice is actually to wait for six months and repeat the viral load. This is to give your body a chance to fight off the infection. As most people who clear the virus on their own can achieve it within that timeframe. If it has been more than six months, since you suspect you had gotten the infection, then at that point, you’re not likely to clear the virus on your own. So your doctor will likely pursue treatment.

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