More than half of all Americans with chronic HCV don’t know they have it, because they have not been tested for it. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends all baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965 get tested once for hepatitis C, regardless of risk factors.
Testing is easy. Talk to your provider about getting tested for hepatitis C. HCV is now curable for most infections, with medicines that typically cause no side effects
What is Hepatitis C (HCV)?
Hepatitis C also is known as Hep C. It is an infectious disease transmitted through blood, including sharing needles and sexual contact. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes inflammation of the liver.
Hepatitis C starts as an acute infection. This typically leads to chronic hepatitis C, which can last a lifetime.
Hepatitis C risks
Unfortunately, there is no Hepatitis C vaccine. Hepatitis C can be prevented by avoiding behaviors that put you at risk.
Risk factors for HCV include:
Sharing needles or other drug related equipment
Blood transfusions/organ transplants before 1992
Products for blood clotting problems made before 1987
Body piercings or tattoos with non-sterile equipment
Being born to HCV-positive mothers
Needlesticks in healthcare professions
If you have hepatitis C, it is not very likely that you will spread the virus through sex. But it is still possible. Men who are HIV positive and have hepatitis C are most at risk of spreading the virus.
Hepatitis C symptoms are not always present
Many individuals who have acute hepatitis C do not show symptoms, or the symptoms are very mild. The most common symptoms are:
Pain in your joints
Hepatitis C goes undiagnosed often because many people show no symptoms, or symptoms are so general that they can be overlooked for other health problems.
That is why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that all baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965 get tested once for hepatitis C, regardless of their risk factors.
Diagnosing Hepatitis C
Doctors often perform two blood tests to diagnose the presence hepatitis C.
Anti-HCV test: The first test looks for antibodies in blood that could be fighting off HCV. A positive test means that you were exposed to hepatitis C some time in your life. It does not mean you have an HCV infection.
Viral load test: If you have a positive test for HCV antibodies, your provider will order a second blood test called a viral load test (RNA test). It checks to see if you still have the hepatitis C virus. A positive test will confirm a diagnosis of chronic hepatitis C virus.
Hepatitis C treatment
There are many different antiviral medications that help treat hepatitis C. Speak with your doctor to choose which medications will work best for you. HCV is now curable for more than 95 percent of infections, with medicines that typically cause no side effects