6 Facts about Diagnosing Hepatitis C

Allison Tsai Mar 10th, 2014 (updated Mar 10th, 2014)
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The first step is getting tested
The first step is getting tested

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.

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A negative antibody test means no hepatitis C
A negative antibody test means no hepatitis C

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.

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A positive antibody test means a person has been infected
A positive antibody test means a person has been infected

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.

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Once infected, a person will always have the antibodies
Once infected, a person will always have the antibodies

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.

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Another test is needed after a positive antibody test
Another test is needed after a positive antibody test

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.

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If RNA test is positive, a person still has HCV
If RNA test is positive, a person still has HCV

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.