6 Facts about Diagnosing Hepatitis C
A blood test, called a hepatitis C (HCV) antibody test, is used to determine if a person has ever been infected with the virus. This tests looks for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus, which are chemicals released in the bloodstream when someone is infected.
A non-reactive or negative antibody test means a person does not have hepatitis C. But if a person has been exposed to the virus within the last six months, they will need to be tested again.
A reactive or positive antibody test means that HCV antibodies were found in the blood, and that at some time, the person was infected with hepatitis C.
This is true even if the person no longer has the hepatitis C virus. A positive antibody test does not necessarily mean you still have HCV. A follow-up test is necessary.
If the results of the antibody test come back positive, an RNA test is needed to determine if the person is still carrying the hepatitis C virus. Another name for this is a PCR test.
If the RNA test is positive, it means the person still has hepatitis C, and should talk to their doctor about treatment options. New treatments are safe, effective and have very high cure rates.