Testing for hepatitis C

  • Checking for hepatitis C involves two types of blood tests.
  • Blood tests check the levels of hepatitis C virus is in your blood and how your body is reacting to it.
  • Blood tests can also check for the type of hepatitis C virus in your blood

A number of blood tests are involved in testing for hepatitis C. These tests check for presence of the hepatitis C virus in the body and help inform how your body is reacting to it. Hep C tests require your permission; they’re not included in routine blood tests. So, you may need to make a specific request with your doctor. 

There are two types of tests performed. 

 

1: The Hep C Antibody Test

Antibodies are produced when your body has come into contact with a virus. They are not the same as the hepatitis C virus.

Having hep C antibodies does not mean you currently have hepatitis C, and the antibodies do not protect you from catching hep C if you come into contact with it again.

It is important to remember that it can take up to 12 weeks from the time hepatitis C enters your blood until your body starts producing hepatitis C antibodies. So, during this time, some test results may need to be re-checked.

If you have been at risk of hepatitis C but don’t have a confirmed test result yet, know that you may pass on the virus to another person through your blood.

Hep C antibody tests are free if you take your Medicare Card to a doctor and /or pathology. Bit, you will have to pay the consultation fee unless your doctor bulk bills.

If you do test positive for hepatitis C antibodies, you will need to have one or more of the following tests:

 

2: PCR/RNA testing for the hepatitis C virus in the blood

This second blood test will confirm whether or not you currently have the hepatitis C virus in your body. If you do test positive to a PCR test you can transmit the virus to another person through your blood.

PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction – the technology used to perform the test. RNA is the part of the virus that the test looks for.

The following three PCR tests are free through Medicare, but there is a limit as to how many tests per year you can get for free. And you will have to pay the consultation fee unless your doctor bulk bills. 

PCR viral detection tests inform whether you have cleared the virus naturally or successfully cleared the virus through treatment. The results are reported as detected (virus found) or not detected (virus not found). 

Like the antibody test, it can take two weeks from the time hepatitis C enters your body until the virus can be found in the blood.

PCR viral load testsmeasure the amount of virus in your blood in a number. The higher the number, the more virus there is in your blood. Even with high levels of virus in your blood you can still feel well.

This test is sometimes used to help people decide when to have hep C treatment.

PCR viral genotype testsare used to determine the genotype (strain) of hep C you have. Knowing your genotype enables your doctor to determine which DAA medicines to prescribe for you.

MORE INFORMATION

For more information on hep C tests you can contact the National Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 437 222.

 

More about hepatitis C

Use the following links to find out more about hepatitis C

What is hepatitis C

Symptoms of hepatitis C

Hepatitis C cures

Hepatitis C prevention

Page updated: 31 January 2019