is hepatitis C?
C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV),
which is found in the blood of persons who have this disease.
In 2002, over 4,000 cases of HCV infection were reported
in Wisconsin. An estimated 3.9 million Americans are infected
How is the virus spread?
is spread primarily by contact with blood from an infected
person. Blood products, organs, tissues, semen and vaginal
secretions from an infected person are sources for potential
HCV infection transmission. HCV is most often spread through
sharing needles. Much less often, it can also be transmitted
from an infected mother to her baby during birth, through
sexual contact or through needlesticks or sharps exposures
on the job. HCV is not spread by casual contact such as
hugging, sneezing, coughing or sharing food.
should get tested for hepatitis C?
drug users, including those who injected once or a few
times many years ago
treated for clotting problems with a blood product made
who were notified that they received blood from a donor
who later tested positive for hepatitis C
who received a blood transfusion or solid organ transplant
before July 1992
who have signs or symptoms of liver disease (e.g., abnormal
liver enzyme tests)
workers after exposures (e.g., needle sticks or splashes
to the eye) to HCV- positive blood on the job
born to HCV-positive women
partners of HCV infected persons, although the risk of
transmission is low
are the signs and symptoms of HCV infection?
HCV infections are not symptomatic. Some individuals experience
loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal
pain and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin). Of
persons infected with HCV, 15% may develop cirrhosis over
a period of 20 to 30 years, and 5% may die from the consequences
of long term infection (liver cancer or cirrhosis).
soon do signs or symptoms occur?
with acute illness usually develop symptoms 6-7 weeks
and for how long is a person able to transmit HCV?
people carry the virus in their blood and may remain contagious
for years. A chronic carrier state may develop in as many
as 75-85% of infected persons.
there treatments for hepatitis C?
FDA has approved three drugs to treat HCV infection. Patients
are advised to consult their medical providers about treatment
tests are available for diagnosing hepatitis C?
are several blood tests that can be done to diagnose HCV
infection. Tests that detect anti-HCV (antibody to HCV)
include the EIA (enzyme immunoassay) and the RIBA (recombinant
immunoblot assay). The EIA is usually done first. If it
is positive, it should be confirmed by another test, either
a RIBA or a qualitative reverse transcriptase polymerase
chain reaction test (RT-PCR). The RIBA is a supplemental
test used to confirm a positive EIA test. Both the EIA
and the RIBA detect anti-HCV in serum or plasma. Anti-HCV
does not tell whether the infection is new (acute), chronic
(long-term) or is no longer present.
The presence or absence of virus (HCV RNA) in the blood
is detected with the RT-PCR. A single positive PCR test
indicates current HCV infection. A single negative PCR
test does not prove that a person is not infected. Virus
may be present in the blood and not found by PCR. When
hepatitis C is suspected and the PCR is negative, the
PCR should be repeated 6 months later. A person whose
PCR tests are negative over time is likely to have resolved
his HCV infection.
long after exposure to HCV does it take to test positive for
can be found in 70% of people when symptoms begin (6-7
weeks after exposure) and in about 90% of people within
3 months after symptoms begin. However, many people with
HCV have no symptoms.
How long after exposure to HCV does it take
to test positive with PCR?
the PCR test, it is possible to find HCV within 1-2 weeks
after being infected with the virus.
can the spread of HCV be prevented?
Wisconsin Division of Public Health - Bureau of Communicable
CDC - Division of Viral Hepatitis
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