Many thousands of people in Australia have hep C but don’t know they have it. This may be because people don’t understand how hep C is transmitted or because usually there are no obvious signs when a person first comes in contact with the virus. It is important to know if you have hep C because there is a cure. Treatment for hep C is easy to access, safe to take and can cure the virus in around 95% of cases.
The only way to find out if you have hep C is by a blood test. It can take up to 3 months after coming in contact with hep C for it to show up in a blood test. This is known as the window period.
This Saturday, July 28th is World Hepatitis Awareness Day. Do you need a test?
Testing for hep C is easy, but who should get tested?
The hep C virus is found in blood. Blood containing the virus must enter the bloodstream of another person for transmission to take place. This is called blood-to-blood contact. Anyone who has had blood-to-blood contact with another person should get tested, especially;
- People who have injected drugs or steroids, particularly if they have shared injecting equipment with others;
- People who have ever been in prison;
- People who have had an unsterile tattoo or body piercing;
- People who have had a needle-stick injury;
- People who have had blood transfusions, blood products or organ transplant in some oversea countries
What does testing involve?
To test for hep C all you need to do is ask for a simple blood test. Usually the first blood test is to determine if you have hep C antibodies in your blood. Hep C antibodies are cells your body produces to fight off the virus. If the first test comes back positive it means that at some point in your life, you have come into contact with hep C. You will then need a follow-up blood test called a PCR test which will tell you if you have the virus now.
If your first test is negative this means you do not have hep C. If you believe that you may be in the window period then you will need a repeat test in 3 months’ time.
Ok so I want a test, but where do I go?
If you would like to check if you have hep C all you need to do is ask your GP for a hep C blood test. If you don’t have a GP or don’t feel comfortable asking your GP you can get a free hep C blood test at the HepatitisWA Deen Clinic.
If you would like to book a hep C blood test or access more information call the Hepatitis Helpline – (08) 9328 8538 (metro), 1800 800 070 (Country) or visit the HepatitisWA website