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Hepatitis C Virus Tests

Results

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) test is a blood test that looks for the genetic material (RNA) of the hepatitis C virus or for the proteins (antibodies) the body makes against HCV.

Results of hepatitis C virus testing that show no infection are called negative. This means that no antibodies against HCV or HCV genetic material was found. Results are usually available in 5 to 7 days.

Hepatitis C virus tests
Normal (negative):

No hepatitis C antibodies are found.

No hepatitis C genetic material (RNA) is found.

Abnormal (positive):

Hepatitis C antibodies are found. A test to detect HCV RNA is needed to determine whether the infection is current or occurred in the past. If HCV RNA is found, genotyping can determine which strain of HCV is causing the infection.

Hepatitis C RNA is detected. This result means a current hepatitis C virus infection.

What Affects the Test

Many conditions can change HCV antibody levels. Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal results that may be related to your symptoms and past health.

Your results may need to be rechecked if you are taking some herbs, supplements, or other alternative medicine products.

What To Think About

  • There is no vaccine to prevent infections with the hepatitis C virus.
  • Hepatitis antibodies can take weeks to develop, so your results may be negative even though you are in the early stage of an infection (false-negative).
  • All donated blood and organs are tested for hepatitis C before being used.
  • Other tests that show how well the liver is working are usually done if your doctor thinks you may have hepatitis C. These may include blood tests for bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, alanine aminotransferase, and aspartate aminotransferase.
  • Many states require that some types of hepatitis infections be reported to the local health department. The health department can then send out a warning to other people who may have been infected with the hepatitis virus, such as those who are close contacts of someone who has hepatitis C.
  • A home test kit is available for hepatitis C (HCV). The kit contains a sharp instrument (lancet) that you use to draw a small sample of blood from your fingertip. The blood sample is then placed on a piece of collection paper and mailed in a prepaid envelope to a lab for testing. Results are available in 10 days. You are given an identification number to use when calling a toll-free number to obtain confidential results. If the results of the test are positive, it is important for you to make an appointment with your doctor to confirm the test results, determine the amount of damage to your liver, and determine whether antiviral therapy is an option.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 16, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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