Hepatitis C is treatable - but only if you know you’re infected - Primary Health

Hepatitis C is treatable — but only if you know you’re infected

  • July 26, 2023

  • Adi Chandrasekhar, MD, MPH, FACP

  • 2 minutes

In honor of World Hepatitis Day, take the first step toward knowing your status by taking an at-home antibody test.

You’ve probably heard of Hepatitis C, but in advance of World Hepatitis Day 2023 (July 28), let’s dive a little deeper into what you need to know about it. Hepatitis C is a viral infection that results in inflammation of the liver. Over time, it can lead to liver failure and death. Most people who get infected with Hepatitis C have little to no symptoms at first, so many early cases are missed.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimated that 2.4 million people lived with Hepatitis C in the United States. That number has likely increased manifold, given that many more would have since been infected but did not receive a diagnosis. In 2018, the CDC reported 3,621 new cases of Hepatitis C; however, that is believed to be a gross underestimation due to under-diagnosis. Instead, the CDC estimates the real figure for new cases in 2018 may be as high as 50,300.

That jaw-dropping number means that for every one patient who knows of their diagnosis, there are as many as fourteen that do not know!

Multiple drugs treat Hepatitis C

That so many people do not know they are infected with Hepatitis C is a tragedy given how easy it is to diagnose the infection. Hepatitis C can be detected using a simple blood test that looks for an antibody formed when someone is infected. If an antibody test is positive, then a second test (viral load test) is conducted to confirm a true infection.

Accurate information about being infected with Hepatitis C is critical. That’s because we now have multiple effective drugs that can treat Hepatitis C. Your doctor can choose from an array of oral drugs that can permanently cure the infection when taken for a short period of time. That is a remarkable development, considering we’ve still not achieved that with many other chronic infections like Hepatitis B or HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

All adults should be tested

The most important step for the thousands of people who remain unaware of their Hepatitis C status is to get tested. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that all adults aged 18-79 get tested for Hepatitis C at least once in their life.  The task force also recommends that some people get tested more often, like people who are pregnant or those with additional risk factors.  

At-home Hepatitis C antibody tests are widely available. This means you can take that first step towards knowing your status within the comfort of your home. So on World Hepatitis Day, take that first step and get a Hepatitis C antibody test!

Disclaimer: This blog content and linked materials are not intended as individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered as such. Any readers with medical concerns should contact a licensed healthcare provider. This blog is provided for informational purposes only.

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