Hepatitis C Virus RNA Test, Qualitative
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About Our Hepatitis C Virus RNA Test, Qualitative
Note: Fasting is not required for this test.
This hepatitis C RNA test is used for early detection of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and helps diagnose a current infection.
This blood test looks for HCV ribonucleic acid (RNA), the genetic material of the virus. It will indicate whether or not the virus is detected in the sample.
In contrast, the Hepatitis C Antibody Test looks for hepatitis C-specific antibodies, which the body produces in response to an infection in order to fight it. As these antibodies stay in your blood even after the infection has been treated, the hepatitis C antibody test does not distinguish between past and current infections. Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends positive antibody tests be followed by an HCV RNA test to determine whether or not there is an active infection.
Because the RNA test directly detects the virus, this test minimizes the time between infection and detection compared to an antibody test (detectable antibodies take longer to develop after infection).
The recommended minimum window period for the hepatitis C RNA test is:
- 2 weeks post potential exposure.
How accurate is the hepatitis C RNA test?
The hepatitis C RNA qualitative test is capable of detecting extremely low levels of the HCV virus (as low as <10 IU/mL HCV RNA). This test is approximately 99.5% accurate 1-2 weeks post exposure.
What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the blood-borne hepatitis C virus. Currently, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is one of five currently identified hepatitis viruses, including hepatitis A, B, D, and E.
A hepatitis C infection is described as either acute (within the first 6 months) or chronic (a lifelong infection). Often, many people may be unaware of an acute hepatitis C infection, as they have no symptoms or mild, flu-like symptoms.
Symptoms of hepatitis C can include:
- Dark urine
- Jaundice (yellowed skin or eyes)
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
If the disease is very mild, is testing important?
While some people may clear the hepatitis C virus, approximately 75-85% of people infected with Hepatitis C will develop a chronic infection according to the CDC.
Chronic hepatitis C can cause serious liver damage that may be potentially life-threatening. A chronic infection may cause cirrhosis, tissue scarring that gradually replaces liver cells, impairing the liver’s ability to filter toxins, create enzymes for digestion, and function normally. In severe cases, this damage may cause liver failure.
If caught at the acute stage, hepatitis C may be cured. Chronic hepatitis C is manageable with antiviral treatment.
How do you get hepatitis C?
The virus can be spread through contact with the blood of an infected person. Infection can occur through:
- Contaminated needles (examples: drug equipment, needlestick injuries for medical professionals, unsterile tattooing or piercings)
- Shared personal items that may have blood such as toothbrushes or razors
- Donated blood or organs that were infected
- From mother to baby in utero
Is hepatitis C an STD (sexually transmitted disease)?
There is a low but present risk of contracting hepatitis C through sexual contact. The risk of transmission increases if the individual has genital sores, if menstrual blood is present, or if the encounter is rough sex that causes abrasions, cuts, or other trauma.
Who is at risk for hepatitis C?
The CDC identifies groups as at increased risk of having hepatitis C:
- Current or former injection drug users
- Those born from 1945-1965 (more than 75% of people living with hepatitis C were born during 1945-1965)
- People with HIV infection, which affects the body’s ability to fight off infections and can accelerate the progression to chronic HCV
- Receivers of blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992, when better testing of blood donors became available
- Recipients of clotting factor concentrates made prior to 1987, before more advanced manufacturing of these products
- People with known exposures such as health care workers with infected needle sticks
- Hemodialysis patients
- Children born to mothers who had HCV
How our Walk-In Laboratories Work
Know your status for hepatitis C by testing today, with a blood sample collection that takes around 5 minutes. We offer same day testing with no insurance or appointment required.
After you place your order, our physician provides you the doctor’s referral necessary to test. Then, you can walk into your preferred lab. You will receive an email or text notification when results are available to view in your online account.
Medically Reviewed by2019-05-21 - Written by HealthLabs Editorial Team.