Hepatitis C Virus - Screening

This test detects antibodies to Hepatitis C virus, which may indicate a current or previous infection.

PLEASE NOTE: ALL RESULTS AND INFORMATION PROVIDED BY HEALTH eLABS ARE INTENDED FOR GENERAL HEALTH INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. AS SUCH THEY ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR A MEDICAL EXAMINATION, AND SHOULD NOT BE USED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, PREVENT OR CURE ANY DISEASE, SYNDROME, OR CONDITION WITHOUT THE SUPERVISION OF A LICENSED PHYSICIAN.

$50.00

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This test can also be purchased as part of our Acute Hepatitis Panel.

PREPARATION: No fasting or other special preparation is needed for this test.

What does this test do?

This test checks for the presence of antibodies to the Hepatitis C virus circulating in the bloodstream.

Why is this important?

Hepatitis is a general term that means inflammation of the liver. This condition can result from many different causes including excessive alcohol use, medications, chemicals, poisons, toxins, or by infection.

One of the organisms that can infect the liver and cause hepatitis is called Hepatitis C virus (HCV). This virus is transmitted through exposure to the blood or body fluids of another infected person, most commonly through unprotected sex. However, other means of transmission have been identified:

  • Sharing household items such as razor blades or toothbrushes
  • Tattooing and body piercing using unsterilized equipment
  • Needlestick exposure in health care workers
  • Sharing needles among intravenous drug users
  • Blood transfusions (given before screening for HCV was started in 1992)

It has been estimated that millions of Americans have been infected with HCV, yet only about half of those are aware that they have the Hepatitis C virus. In fact, compared to HIV almost four times more Americans are infected with Hepatitis C virus.

HCV is dangerous because once in the bloodstream, the virus attacks the liver where it causes inflammation. If this process is not reversed, in over 75% of cases chronic inflammation develops, steadily damaging the liver and replacing healthy tissue with non-functional scars; this is referred to as cirrhosis of the liver. If the disease continues to progress, eventually the liver begins to fail, which can be fatal.

in the US, HCV causes half of all cases of cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease, and it is one of the major causes of liver cancer. Hepatitis C is the number one cause for liver transplant and a major cause of death – over 10,000 Americans die each year from complications resulting from HCV.

Currently there are no vaccines available to protect one from becoming infected with HCV, but recent pharmaceutical advances have led to (extremely expensive) medications that can successfully eliminate the HCV virus, and effect a “cure.”

Preventing infection is still the best way to avoid complications however; HCV is transmitted through exposure to blood and bodily fluids, and one of the most common routes of transmission is through unprotected sexual activity. However, shared household items such as razors and toothbrushes may contain small amounts of blood, even after normal use, and have been known to transmit the disease as well.

What do the results mean?

This test does not detect the HCV virus itself; rather it checks for antibodies to HCV, which is an indirect indication of infection.

As such, this test cannot be used to distinguish between someone who has an active, ongoing infection and someone who has had HCV in the past. Likewise, the test does not provide any information about the duration of a particular HCV infection or the amount of liver damage, if any, that may have resulted.

For these reasons, if your test is positive for HCV antibodies it is vital that you abstain from sexual activity, donating blood, or sharing household items such as those listed above until you can follow up with your physician to perform further testing, and formulate a treatment plan.

It is important to note that it takes about 8 weeks after exposure to HCV for your body to generate antibodies to the virus. This means that even if your test result is negative, if you think you may have been recently exposed to HCV then you should follow up with your physician, who may recommend repeating the test in the future.