If the disease is very mild, why should I be tested?
Hepatitis C often leads to chronic hepatitis, which can progress to and liver cancer
(hepatocellular carcinoma). Early detection of the virus can alert your doctor to follow your liver function more closely than usual and to consider treating you if you are chronically infected.
Are there other tests used to follow the disease?
Yes. Liver tests, such as ALT
, are used to indicate ongoing liver injury. Persons who are still infected with HCV but always have normal AST and ALT probably have very mild liver disease and may not need treatment. Other liver tests, such as albumin
, prothrombin time
, and bilirubin
can also be used; they are typically normal unless the person has developed . Sometimes a liver may be performed to determine how severe the liver damage is.
Can I be vaccinated against HCV?
No. Currently, there is no available. Developing one has been difficult because the virus has several different molecular configurations, which are constantly changing.
Is there treatment for HCV?
Yes, there are currently a few drugs that can be used to treat HCV infection. Most commonly, a combination of two drugs (interferon and ribavirin) is used. A new form of interferon, called pegylated interferon, is now used as standard treatment. New drugs to treat HCV are being tested currently. Depending on your age, gender, the genotype and viral load of HCV you have and how much damage has occurred to your liver, your likelihood of cure from HCV may range from very low to as high as 90%.
Can I test myself for the virus at home?
No. The test is performed by qualified laboratory staff.
How can I tell if I can spread the infection to others?
If a person has detectable HCV RNA in their blood, they have the potential to spread the disease to other people. The likelihood of giving your sex partner HCV is low, even if you have the virus in your blood; most doctors would recommend safe sex (such as using condoms), especially if you have more than one sex partner or are HIV positive. Pregnant women who have the HCV virus in their blood have about a 5% chance of spreading the infection to their infant. HCV is highly infectious if needles or (perhaps) razors are shared by an infected and an uninfected person. HCV cannot be spread by casual contact, even if you live in the same house with an infected person.