Blood Tests for Hepatitis C
The Center for Disease Control or CDC recently recommended that all baby boomers get a blood test for Hepatitis C. So what is hepatitis and why does it matter to you?
Hepatitis C, also called HCV, is an inflammation of the liver and is part of the hepatitis A / B / C virus family. Caused by toxins, drugs, alcohol use, infections, and a number of diseases, Hepatitis C is contagious.
Types of Lab Tests to Screen for the Hepatitis A / B / C Virus
One blood test, the Anti-HCV test, can determine if the virus is present in the blood, and will inform a person if he or she has been exposed to HCV. This blood test does not show if the infection is active or not. Another lab test, the HCV recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA) test does essentially the same thing.
Other lab tests confirm an active HCV infection and can help doctors decide on treatment. The HCV RNA Qualitative blood test, the RNA Quantitative blood test, and viral genotyping give more specific information about the hepatitis virus, such as how likely it is that treatment will be successful.
Identifying the particular hepatitis A / B / C virus is of the utmost importance, and time can be a critical factor in recovery.
How Is HCV Spread?
HCV is commonly spread through contact with the blood of an infected person. Most people who get Hepatitis C do so by sharing needles. Before the blood supply in the U.S. was screened for the virus, another common way the virus spread was through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
Medical personnel can contract the hepatitis A / B / C virus by getting stuck with a used needle. Some people contract the disease because their mother was infected. It is possible, but less likely, to contract the virus by sexual contact or contact with an infected person’s toothbrush or razor.
Who Should Be Tested?
If a person has been exposed to someone with HCV, getting a blood test for screening is vital. People who participate in high risk behavior, such as injecting drugs, are also at risk. Having an abnormal liver function test and exhibiting the symptoms of liver disease, such as dark urine, weight loss or gain, nausea, and jaundice, are also indications to screen for hepatitis A / B / C / virus with a lab test.
People in the baby boom generation, born between 1945 and 1965, are especially vulnerable to HCV. Approximately 75 percent of all HCV infections in the U.S. occur in people in this age group. A blood test to screen for hepatitis A / B / C virus is important for this population. In the State of Florida alone, about 300,000 people are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus, and approximately 2,000 new cases occur each year–most in baby boomers.