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About Our Hepatitis A, B & C Panel
This hepatitis panel is a blood test used to screen and help diagnose if you’ve been infected by the hepatitis A, B, and/or C viruses. These contagious viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis, a type of liver disease that causes inflammation of the liver. Since symptoms can be similar between the different types of hepatitis, this panel can differentiate which type of viral hepatitis you’ve been exposed to, if present.
Some hepatitis tests detect antibodies produced by the immune system in response to infection, while one detects surface antigens, proteins that are part of the virus.
This hepatitis virus panel includes:
- Hepatitis A Virus Antibody, IgM Test
- Hepatitis B Virus Surface Antigen (HBsAg) Test–Hepatitis B surface antigen is usually the first indication of the Hepatitis B virus and can be detected during acute and chronic Hepatitis B infections.
- Hepatitis C Virus Antibody Test
The recommended minimum window period for our hepatitis A, B and C tests are:
- Hepatitis A Test–2-7 weeks post potential exposure
- Hepatitis B Test–6 weeks post potential exposure; hepatitis B can occasionally be detected as early as 3 weeks post-exposure, however for the most accurate results, we recommend getting tested after 6 weeks.
- Hepatitis C Test–8-9 weeks post potential exposure.
Who Should Get Tested?
You may consider testing if you show symptoms of liver disease, such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Dark urine
- Pale stool
- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Abdominal pain
- Extreme tiredness
However, people with hepatitis A, B, or C may show mild or no symptoms. Sometimes, warning signs don’t appear for years, until after the liver has been damaged.
This blood test also may be done if you were exposed to a hepatitis virus, whether you have symptoms or not.
- Hepatitis A (HAV) is spread when someone ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated with feces from an infected person, or from close personal contact–such as sex or caring for an infected person when they are ill.
- Hepatitis B (HBV) is spread through contact with an infected person’s blood, semen, and vaginal secretions, which can happen during vaginal or anal sex, when living in a household with someone infected, and through other methods such as sharing equipment for injection drug use.
- Hepatitis C (HCV) is spread when infected blood enters the body, such as through shared needles and syringes, and less commonly through personal care items, sexual contact with an infected person, and unsterile tattooing or body piercing.
What Do Test Results Mean?
A negative test result means you don’t have a hepatitis infection or have tested too early after being exposed to the virus. A positive result can indicate you have or have previously had a hepatitis A, B, or C infection. To confirm a diagnosis, a doctor may require more testing. For example, after a positive hepatitis C antibody result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends follow-up by a Hepatitis C Virus RNA Test to help diagnose a current infection.
Is Hepatitis Virus Testing Important?
Hepatitis virus testing helps identify infection(s) and can help ensure people who get the virus get the proper care, treatment, and monitoring. Viral hepatitis can range from a minor and temporary flu-like illness, to a serious liver disease that can cause fatal liver failure. Depending on the specific virus, severity of symptoms, length of illness, and recovery vary.
Hepatitis is categorized as either acute (a new infection lasting less than 6 months) or chronic (a lifelong infection). Most adults with Hepatitis A feel sick for a few weeks but recover without lasting liver damage. However, some people infected with hepatitis B and most people infected with hepatitis C develop a chronic infection.
Over time, chronic hepatitis and liver inflammation can damage the liver. Continued damage can impair the liver’s ability to work properly and lead to long-term problems like cirrhosis (liver scarring), liver failure, and liver cancer, which can be life-threatening. Liver failure due to Hepatitis B and C are among the most common reasons for liver transplantation in the United States.
Risk Factors and CDC Recommendations
Anyone can get hepatitis A, B, or C, if exposed. However, certain people are at higher risk for contracting viral hepatitis. For those at risk for hepatitis B and C, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has specific screening recommendations.
People at higher risk for hepatitis A include:
- Direct contact with someone who has hepatitis A
- Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
- Men who have sexual encounters with men
- Injection and non-injection drug users
- People with clotting factor disorders, like hemophilia
- People who work with nonhuman primates
The CDC recommends hepatitis B screening for:
- People born in countries with high hepatitis B prevalence
- Men who have sex with men
- People who inject drugs
- People living with HIV
- People who need immunosuppressive therapy
- People with end-stage renal disease
- People with elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels
- Pregnant women
The CDC recommends hepatitis C screening for:
- Adults born between 1945-1965
- Past or current users of injection drugs (even only once)
- People with certain medical conditions such as those who:
- Received clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
- Were ever on long-term hemodialysis
- Have persistently abnormal ALT levels
- Have HIV
- Prior recipients of blood transfusions or organ transplants before July 1992
- Recognized exposure, such as needlestick or mucosal exposure to HCV-positive blood
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