Kentucky Is Leading The Charge
Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Kentucky began screening all pregnant women for hepatitis C in May 2016, after doctors started seeing more patients with risk factors.
It was truly based on clinicians saying, we believe that this is clinically the right thing to do, says Michelle Rose, Nortons infectious disease manager for population health.
Remarkably, 75% of moms testing positive since the initiative began had been unaware of their infection, she tells Health.
Hard hit by the opioid epidemic, Kentucky in 2018 became the first state in the nation to pass legislation requiring hepatitis C screening for all pregnant women.
Can I Take The Test At Home
At-home hepatitis C tests are available that allow patients to collect a blood sample at home and mail it to a laboratory for testing. Test samples are collected through pricking a finger with a sharp object, called a lancet, thats included in the test kit.
At-home HCV testing is a form of hepatitis C antibody testing and does not test for hepatitis C RNA or the strains genotype. Testing for hepatitis C at home is not a substitute for testing performed by a health care professional, and positive test results may need to be confirmed by laboratory-based testing.
Can This Test Be Done At My Healthcare Practitioners Office
Maybe. There are rapid HCV antibody tests available that can be done at the point of care , in settings such as your healthcare practitioners office, community health clinics, and emergency rooms. They provide results in about 20 minutes. However, a positive result requires confirmation of active disease with an HCV RNA test, which is performed in a laboratory.
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Positive Hcv Antibody And Negative Hcv Rna
Individuals with a positive HCV antibody test and a negative HCV RNA should be informed they do not have evidence of current hepatitis C infection. It should be explained to the patient that most likely they were infected at some time with HCV, but cleared the infection on their own and they do not have current infection. They do not need further follow-up HCV testing, unless they had recent exposure to HCV. A single negative HCV RNA value does not prove that a patient is not infected, given the potential fluctuations of the viral level early in HCV infection a follow-up HCV RNA level would be indicated depending on the clinical case. Patients should be reevaluated if they have exposure to HCV in the future. In addition, they should receive counseling that prior infection does not make them immune to reinfection with HCV.
Who Is At Risk For Hepatitis C
You are more likely to get hepatitis C if you:
- Have injected drugs
If you have chronic hepatitis C, you probably will not have symptoms until it causes complications. This can happen decades after you were infected. For this reason, hepatitis C screening is important, even if you have no symptoms.
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The Test Is Quick And Easy
A simple blood test can tell if you’ve ever had the virus. The results usually come back in a few days, but some clinics have rapid versions that can be read in as little as 20 minutes. If it comes back negative, but there’s a chance you were exposed in the last 6 months, get tested again.
If the first results are positive, you had hepatitis C at some point. A second test will check to see if the original case cleared up or became chronic . If it’s chronic, you’ll need to see a doctor who specializes in treating the disease.
Why Does Everyone Need Screening
Because the disease can be symptomless, the only way to know for sure who has it is through testing. Maybe you picked up the virus from sharing a razor or toothbrush with someone whos infected, or maybe you got stuck by a needle when you volunteered to clean up a nearby park. If you have it and dont know it, you run the risk of infecting others. Testing is easy and treatment is highly effective , so theres not much to lose by getting tested.
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You Can Protect Your Family And Friends
You can pass the hepatitis C virus to others through your blood, even if you don’t have any symptoms. To prevent this, cover wounds carefully and avoid sharing:
- Razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, or diabetes supplies
- Needles for injecting drugs, or steroids
- Tools for body piercings or tattoos
Hepatitis C doesn’t spread through kissing, coughing, sneezing, or sharing eating utensils. Although it’s uncommon, you can get it from unprotected sex.
What Is The Treatment For Hcv
There are several drugs that can be used to treat HCV infection. Most commonly, a combination of drugs is used, and new drugs are under development. Before 2000, chronic HCV was curable in only 10% of cases. Now, treatments for HCV can cure over 90% of people with hepatitis C before late complications occur, but even those with advanced liver disease often respond to treatment. This increases the opportunity to intervene early and prevent HCV-associated deaths.
- According to the CDC, recent treatment guidelines recommend monitoring people with acute HCV but only considering treatment if the infection persists longer than 6 months.
- Chronic HCV is usually treated with a combination of drugs.
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This Hepatitis C Screening Test Checks Whether You Test Positive For Hepatitis C
In the event that your test results are positive, an associate from our physician network will contact you directly to discuss your particular case as well as provide information on how to take the next steps to get treatment. We take customer privacy very seriously and will never share your information with a third-party with the exception of the lab we use to test your sample and our physician network.
As is the case with all STD testing – whether through EverlyWell or your doctor â we may be required by law to report positive test results to certain state health departments. This is only done to track infection prevalence. In rare cases you may not receive a definitive result because of early infection or inadequate sampling and repeat testing is suggested. Know where you stand with our at-home Hepatitis C test.
Reactive Or Positive Hepatitis C Antibody Test
- A reactive or positive antibody test 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.
- Once people have been infected, they will always have antibodies in their blood. This is true even if they have cleared the Hepatitis C virus.
- A reactive antibody test does not necessarily mean that you have Hepatitis C. A person will need an additional, follow-up test.
Persons for Whom HCV Testing Is Recommended
- Adults born from 1945 through 1965 should be tested once
- Those who:
- Ever injected drugs, including those who injected once or a few times many years ago
- Have certain medical conditions, including persons:
- who received clotting factor concentrates produced before 1987
- who were ever on long-term hemodialysis
- with persistently abnormal alanine aminotransferase levels
- who have HIV infection
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Testing For Hepatitis C
To diagnose a hepatitis C infection, doctors use a hepatitis C antibody test, which is a blood test. The test must have the approval of the Food and Drug Administration .
The hepatitis C antibody can show if a persons body has made any antibodies to HCV. If they have, this indicates that they have had the infection at some point in their lives.
Some people have the infection at some time, but their immune system eliminates the virus after a few months. In others, the body is unable to fight off the virus, leading to chronic hepatitis C infection. Many people will not experience any symptoms until the disease has progressed significantly.
A non-reactive or negative test result will generally indicate that a person does not have HCV. However, if the person has the test during the window period, they could receive inaccurate results.
If the person knows when exposure occurred, a doctor may recommend waiting a few weeks before repeating the test.
A reactive or positive result tells a doctor that the person has had an HCV infection at some point in their lives. The result indicates that their body has created antibodies to fight the virus.
However, this does not mean that a person still has active HCV. Even if their immune system has eliminated the virus, they will still have the antibodies.
What Are The Treatments For Hepatitis C
Treatment for hepatitis C is with antiviral medicines. They can cure the disease in most cases.
If you have acute hepatitis C, your health care provider may wait to see if your infection becomes chronic before starting treatment.
If your hepatitis C causes cirrhosis, you should see a doctor who specializes in liver diseases. Treatments for health problems related to cirrhosis include medicines, surgery, and other medical procedures. If your hepatitis C leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you may need a liver transplant.
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What Are The Tests For Hepatitis C
There are two blood tests needed to diagnose hepatitis C:
The antibody test–called HCV antibody, HCV Ab, or anti-HCV–is done first. If this test is positive, it means that you have been infected with hepatitis C at some point in the past. If your antibody test is negative, then you have never been infected with hepatitis C if you were infected within the past month or so, the test may not be accurate you may needed to be retested at a later date.
However, a positive antibody test does not tell you if you still have hepatitis C. For that, you need to have a HCV RNA test, which determines whether the virus itself is in the bloodstream.
If any RNA is present in the blood after 6 months from time of infection, then you have chronic hepatitis C.
If no RNA is detected in the blood after 6 months, you no longer have hepatitis C.
What Does It Mean When Different Types Of Blood Tests For Hepatitis C Give Different Results
The first test your provider probably will perform is called an “antibody” test. A positive result means that you were exposed to the hepatitis C virus at some point in your life.
If the result is positive, your provider will perform a second test called hepatitis C virus RNA to see if the virus is still in your body. If the RNA test result is positive, then you have chronic hepatitis C infection.
So what does it mean if you have a positive result for the first test but a negative result for the second?
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Should I Get Tested For Hepatitis C
Know the Score about HCV
Its a good idea to get tested for hepatitis C if you:
- Currently inject drugs
- Have ever injected drugs in the past, even if it was just once or many years ago
- Have HIV or AIDS
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease
- Received donated blood or organs before 1992
- Have been exposed to blood on the job through a needlestick or injury with a sharp object
- Are getting long term hemodialysis
- Are concerned that you might have been exposed to hepatitis C through blood-to-blood contact
How can I find out if I have Hepatitis C?
There are two types of blood tests used to diagnose hepatitis C.
HCV Antibody Test: A positive result means at some point you contracted hepatitis C. This test is very accurate, but may not detect if you are still infected. If you have been treated previously for hepatitis c, this test will come up positive. To confirm your result, ask your doctor for a diagnostic test.
HCV RNA/Diagnostic Test: This confirms if you are currently living with hepatitis C by detecting the virus in your blood. These results are reported as undetectable or detectable. A detectable result means you have chronic hepatitis C.
You can get tested for hepatitis C through any doctor. Antibody tests are also freely available at many health department clinics and certain syringe access programs.
Whos Most At Risk Of Infection
The hep C virus is transmitted through blood consequently, one of the most significant risk factors in the U.S. is actively injecting drugs with shared needles or syringes. Even if you dont use drugs anymore, just one shared needle, many years ago, is enough to cause infection. The exposure might have been ancient history, says Michael Barry, M.D., a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, MA, and a member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
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What Is The Benefit Of Testing Someone For Hepatitis C
There are several reasons why someone should be tested for hepatitis C. Knowing one’s hepatitis C status will help prevent hepatitis C transmission to others. Early clinical evaluation and ongoing disease monitoring can also improve health outcomes. Additional measures can be taken to protect the liver from further harm such as getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and B, decreasing or eliminating alcohol consumption and understanding the interactions among herbal supplements, over the counter medications, and prescription medications. Finally, hepatitis C is a curable disease for most. Better and more effective treatments are now available. The earlier in the disease process someone receives treatment, the greater chance they have to be cured.
What Foods Should I Avoid
Everyone should avoid eating a lot of fat, cholesterol, salt and processed sugar, even if their liver is healthy. In addition, those with HCV should limit or avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol will speed up liver damage.
Eating properly can help decrease some of the symptoms of Hepatitis C, like feeling tired and sick. Drink lots of water for general health benefits. HCV is not a digestive disease diet will not affect the disease. Your provider may put you on a special diet if you have advanced liver disease.
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Will The Baby Be Infected If The Mother Or Father Has Hepatitis C
The baby’s risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C in the womb varies, depending on whether the parent with hepatitis C is the father or the mother.
If the mother is infected, whether or not the father is infected, there is a 5% chance that the baby will be born with hepatitis C. The risk is the same regardless of whether the birth occurs by vaginal delivery or by cesarean section. The risk is higher if the mother is also living with HIV.
If the father has hepatitis C but the mother does not, the baby cannot become infected because a father cannot pass the virus directly to a baby. If the father first passes the virus to the mother through sex, then the baby possibly could be infected by the mother. However, the chance of the virus being transmitted both from father to mother and then from mother to baby is almost zero.
All children born to HCV-infected women should be tested for HCV infection. Testing is recommended using an antibody-based test at or after 18 months of age. Approximately 25-50 % infants with hepatitis C will clear the infection without any medical help by age 4. For those who become chronically infected, most have no symptoms .
What Are The Different Types Of Blood Tests How Often Should I Get These Tests Done
There are several different blood tests, or “labs” that your provider may order for you. The tests measure the amounts of various proteins and enzymes that the liver produces. This is a way of finding out how damaged the liver is. Your provider can determine how often each test needs to be done. Please see Understanding Lab Tests for more details about the tests you may have.
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How Common Is Hepatitis C
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention think that 2.4 million Americans are infected with HCV. It is the most common infection carried by blood in the United States. Veterans have higher rates of hepatitis C than the rest of the country so it is especially important to discuss hepatitis C testing with your provider if you are a Veteran. But, Veterans are not the only ones with high rates of hepatitis C. Baby boomers have higher rates of hepatitis C than people in other age groups in the country as well. Often, people infected with hepatitis C are not aware of their infection because they have no symptoms and they do not feel ill so getting tested if you are at higher risk is important step.