What Does A Reactive Hcv Antibody Test Result Mean
A reactive or positive antibody test means you have 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 if they have cleared the virus, have been cured, or still have the virus in their blood.
A reactive antibody test does not necessarily mean that you currently have hepatitis C and a follow-up test is needed.
How Do Doctors Treat Hepatitis C
Doctors treat hepatitis C with antiviral medicines that attack the virus and can cure the disease in most cases.
Several newer medicines, called direct-acting antiviral medicines, have been approved to treat hepatitis C since 2013. Studies show that these medicines can cure chronic hepatitis C in most people with this disease. These medicines can also cure acute hepatitis C. In some cases, doctors recommend waiting to see if an acute infection becomes chronic before starting treatment.
Your doctor may prescribe one or more of these newer, direct-acting antiviral medicines to treat hepatitis C:
You may need to take medicines for 8 to 24 weeks to cure hepatitis C. Your doctor will prescribe medicines and recommend a length of treatment based on
- which hepatitis C genotype you have
- how much liver damage you have
- whether you have been treated for hepatitis C in the past
Your doctor may order blood tests during and after your treatment. Blood tests can show whether the treatment is working. Hepatitis C medicines cure the infection in most people who complete treatment.
Hepatitis C medicines may cause side effects. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of treatment. Check with your doctor before taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
For safety reasons, talk with your doctor before using dietary supplements, such as vitamins, or any complementary or alternative medicines or medical practices.
How Do You Get Tested For Hepatitis C
Several testing procedures are available to accurately diagnose hepatitis C infection.
Hepatitis C, an inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus , often goes undiagnosed until serious liver problems develop decades after contracting the virus. This is because the illness is asymptomatic for most people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
For these asymptomatic people, hepatitis C is generally detected when blood screenings show they are HCV-positive, or routine examinations show they have elevated levels of the liver enzyme alanine aminotransferase , an indication of liver cell damage.
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Tests After The Diagnosis
Once the doctor knows you have hep C, theyâll do tests to find out more about your condition. This will help determine your treatment. They could include:
- Genotype tests to find out which of the six kinds of hepatitis C you have.
- Liver function tests. They measure proteins and enzymes levels, which usually rise 7 to 8 weeks after youâre infected. As your liver gets damaged, enzymes leak into your bloodstream. But you can have normal enzyme levels and still have hepatitis C.
- Tests to check for liver damage. You might get:
- Elastography. Doctors use a special ultrasound machine to feel how stiff your liver is.
- Liver biopsy. The doctor inserts a needle into your liver to take a tiny piece to examine in the lab.
- Imaging tests. These use various methods to take pictures or show images of your insides. They include:
What Causes A Hepatitis C Infection
A hepatitis C infection is usually caused by exposure to blood thatâs been infected with the hepatitis C virus . Exposure to hepatitis C can occur in several different ways, but these are some of the most common:
- Intravenous drug use with needle sharing
- A healthcare-associated needle stick injury
- A pregnant woman with the virus passing it to her unborn baby
- Getting a tattoo or piercing in a setting where needles may be reused or improperly sterilized
- Sharing an item that has come into contact with someone elseâs blood
- Having sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis C
- Receiving a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
Additionally, youâre at a particularly high risk of hepatitis Câas well as related complicationsâif you were born sometime in 1945â1965. Itâs estimated that, among people born during these years, 1 in 30 have the hepatitis C virusâbut most arenât aware theyâre infected. This highlights the importance of testing for hepatitis Câsooner rather than later.
Check for hepatitis C from the privacy and convenience of home with our at-home Hepatitis C Test.
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How Can I Protect Myself From Hepatitis C Infection
If you dont have hepatitis C, you can help protect yourself from hepatitis C infection by
- not sharing drug needles or other drug materials
- wearing gloves if you have to touch another persons blood or open sores
- making sure your tattoo artist or body piercer uses sterile tools and unopened ink
- not sharing personal items such toothbrushes, razors, or nail clippers
Hepatitis C can spread from person to person during sex, but the chances are low. People who have multiple sex partners, have HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, or who engage in rough or anal sex have a higher chance of getting hepatitis C. Talk with your doctor about your risk of getting hepatitis C through sex and about safe sex practices, such as using a latex or polyurethane condom to help prevent the spread of hepatitis C.
If you had hepatitis C in the past and your body fought off the infection or medicines cured the infection, you can get hepatitis C again. Follow the steps above, and talk with your doctor about how to protect yourself from another hepatitis C infection.
If you think you may have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus, see your doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage.
Once I Have Been Treated And/or Recovered From Hepatitis C Can I Get Infected Again
Yes. A prior infection with HCV does not protect you from another infectionit does not make you immune to HCV. Most people do not have an effective immune response to the virus. Changes that the virus undergoes as it replicates during an infection make it difficult for the body to fight against the initial or subsequent infections.
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When Should I Get Hepatitis C Testing
When used for early detection in patients without symptoms of hepatitis C, screening is recommended at least once for all adults aged 18 years or older, except in locations with very low prevalence of HCV. Screening is also recommended during pregnancy and for patients of any age with risk factors for HCV infection. In patients with risk factors, periodic screening is recommended for as long as risk factors persist.
Risk factors for HCV include:
- Current or past injectable drug use
- Having a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- Receiving kidney dialysis
- Pain in the abdomen or joints
- Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
- Jaundice or yellowish skin and eyes
Hepatitis C testing may also be performed when liver tests are abnormal or when diagnosing the cause of existing liver damage.
How Can A Person Protect Themselves From Getting Hepatitis C And Other Diseases Spread By Contact With Human Blood
Don’t ever shoot drugs. Intranasal is also a risk factor. If you shoot or inhale drugs, stop and get into a treatment program. If you can’t stop, never reuse or share syringes, water, or drug works, and get vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
Do not share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal care articles. They might have blood on them.
If you are a healthcare worker, always follow routine barrier precautions and safely handle needles and other sharps. Get vaccinated against hepatitis B
Consider the health risks if you are thinking about getting a tattoo or body piercing: You can get infected if:
the tools that are used have someone else’s blood on them.
the artist or piercer doesn’t follow good health practices, such as washing hands and using disposable gloves.
HCV can be spread by sex, but this does not occur very often. If you are having sex, but not with one steady partner:
You and your partners can get other diseases spread by having sex .
You should use latex condoms correctly and every time. The efficacy of latex condoms in preventing infection with HCV is unknown, but their proper use may reduce transmission.
You should get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
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What Are The Hepatitis C Testing Options For Infants
If you receive an HCV-positive result on an antibody test, it usually means youve been infected with HCV at some point. This also means your immune system has been triggered to fight the virus.
During the perinatal period and birth, a mothers antibodies and some viruses, including HCV, cross the placenta and are passed on to her child. Infants born to mothers infected by HCV often test positive for HCV antibodies for up to 18 months after birth. This doesnt necessarily mean that they have hepatitis C, though. HCV antibody tests are often inaccurate.
The antibodies present in the test may come from the infected mother and not the child. Because of this, its recommended that you hold off on getting an HCV antibody test for your child until after theyre at least 18 months old. By this point, any remaining antibodies from the mother should be out of the childs system. This means a more definitive result can be obtained.
HCV RNA-PCR tests are also used. Though HCV RNA-PCR tests are considered a more reliable way to detect the virus in the blood, a two-step approach is often recommended. To determine a diagnosis, your infant will be given two HCV RNA-PCR tests at least six months apart. This test can be done after 3 months of age, though it usually isnt done until later. If your infant tests positive on both, they will be diagnosed with HCV.
What Other Information Should Patients With Hepatitis C Be Aware Of
Sneezing, hugging, coughing, food or water does not spread HCV nor does sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, or casual contact.
Persons should not be excluded from work, school, play, child-care or other settings on the basis of their HCV infection status.
Involvement with a support group may help patients cope with hepatitis C.
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Whos At Risk For Hepatitis C
You might be more likely to get it if you:
- Inject or have injected street drugs
- Were born between 1945 and 1965
- Got clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
- Received a blood transfusion or solid organ transplants before July 1992
- Got blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for hepatitis C
- Are on dialysis
How Common Is Hepatitis C In The United States
In the United States, hepatitis C is the most common chronic viral infection found in blood and spread through contact with blood.14
Researchers estimate that about 2.7 million to 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C.13 Many people who have hepatitis C dont have symptoms and dont know they have this infection.
Since 2006, the number of new hepatitis C infections has been rising, especially among people younger than age 30 who inject heroin or misuse prescription opioids and inject them.15,16
New screening efforts and more effective hepatitis C treatments are helping doctors identify and cure more people with the disease. With more screening and treatment, hepatitis C may become less common in the future. Researchers estimate that hepatitis C could be a rare disease in the United States by 2036.17
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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.
Can You Have A False Positive Anti
Yes. A false positive test means the test looks as if it is positive, but it is really negative. This happens more often in persons who have a low risk for the disease for which they are being tested. For example, false positive anti-HCV tests happen more often in persons such as blood donors who are at low risk for hepatitis C. Therefore, it is important to confirm a positive anti-HCV test with a supplemental test as most false positive anti- HCV tests are reported as negative on supplemental testing. There are certain situations where individuals with autoimmune disorders, such as Lupus, may have a false positive HCV antibody test. Confirming this with a HCV-RNA will usually be negative-indicating no active hepatitis C.
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How Can I Prevent Spreading Hepatitis C To Others
If you have hepatitis C, follow the steps above to avoid spreading the infection. Tell your sex partner you have hepatitis C, and talk with your doctor about safe sex practices. In addition, you can protect others from infection by telling your doctor, dentist, and other health care providers that you have hepatitis C. Dont donate blood or blood products, semen, organs, or tissue.
How Effective Is Treatment
Direct acting antivirals cure 9 out of 10 patients with hepatitis C.
Successful treatment does not give you any protection against another hepatitis C infection. You can still catch it again.
There’s no vaccine for hepatitis C.
If treatment does not work, it may be repeated, extended, or a different combination of medicines may be tried.
Your doctor or nurse will be able to advise you.
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Contaminated Needles And Infected Blood
You can get hepatitis C from sharing contaminated needles, syringes and other injecting equipment during recreational drug use. Banknotes and straws used for snorting may also pass the virus on.
Being exposed to unsterilised tattoo and body piercing equipment can also pass hepatitis C on. Occasionally, you can get it from sharing a towel, razor blades or a toothbrush if there is infected blood on them.
Hepatitis C infection is also passed on in healthcare settings, from needle stick injuries or from medical and dental equipment that has not been properly sterilised. In countries where blood products are not routinely screened, you can also get hepatitis C by receiving a transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.
You can prevent hepatitis C by:
- never sharing needles and syringes or other items that may be contaminated with infected blood
- only having tattoos, body piercings or acupuncture in a professional setting, where new, sterile needles are used
- following the standard infection control precautions, if youre working in a healthcare setting.
Are Test Results Accurate
Although no test is perfect, hepatitis C testing is an important and accepted method of testing for HCV. In order to reduce the risk of inaccurate results, doctors take steps to verify a patients diagnosis. For example, a positive test result for hepatitis C antibody requires confirmation with HCV RNA testing.
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Hcv Antibody Blood Tests
When hepatitis C viruses infect your liver cells, your immune system responds by using antibodies to mark the viruses as harmful intruders. The antibodies are specific for HCV, so their presence indicates that you have had HCV at some time in your life. Antibody tests cannot distinguish between past or current infection, so clinical information such as medical history, signs, symptoms, or other tests can determine whether you have an active infection or a previous infection.
Other Tests For Diagnosing Hepatitis C
Before recommending a treatment plan, your doctor will likely conduct other tests. The six major strains, or genotypes, of HCV respond differently to different treatments, so your doctor will conduct another blood test that determines your HCV genotype.
You can be infected with more than one genotype at a time. Genotypes 1, 2, and 3 are the most common in the United States.
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Questions For Your Doctor
When you visit the doctor, you may want to ask questions to get the information you need to manage your hepatitis C. If you can, have a family member or friend take notes. You might ask:
What Does A Negative Hcv Antibody Test Result Mean
A negative antibody test result usually means that the person has not been infected with hepatitis C .
The body needs at least two months to make antibodies. People with weakened immune systems are not always able to produce antibodies. This might happen in people with autoimmune disorders , HIV-positive people with a CD4 cell count below < 200 cells/mm3, and people taking immunosuppressants.
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