How likely is it that I have Hepatitis C?

My mother told me she was in a car accident in the 70’s and she needed a blood transfusion. They didn’t screen for diseases back then so that’s when she caught the disease. She had me in the 80’s so how high is my chance that I’m infected with Hepatitis C? I had a blood test yesterday and I’m very frightened because I already told my boyfriend I’m getting this test. I know for certain he will leave me if he finds out I have this so I’m depressed. My mother told me that even though she’s had Hepatitis C since the mid 70’s that she doesn’t have any symptoms so could I possibly have it too and have no symptoms? I’m so scared to find out the results. I feel so angry because this wasn’t even my fault.

According to this site, the risk is 1 in 8. But is you mother ABSOLUTELY SURE that she has it? According to this site, the first reported instance of HCV was in 1988. Or maybe she got it from somewhere else? When was the last time she was tested for it? Is she currently on any medication for it?

She went to donate blood to the Red Cross in 1993-94 and they told her sorry you have Hepatitis C and she never donated after that. She hasn’t been tested since that time they told her at the Red Cross and she doesn’t take any medication. She says she doesn’t feel any symptoms of it and she feels healthy. Prior to donating in 1993-94 she donated all the time sine the 70’s. That one incident stopped her from donating blood anymore.

Ok, not to knock the Red Cross and their testing methods, but it’s possible that your mother had a false positive or there was a mixup with the samples at their lab. She should be checked out pronto for HCV antibodies, or better yet PCR for HCV. If those come up positive, she should have a western blot done to absolutely confirm a diagnosis of HCV. Based on what you have said so far, I am skeptical that she actually has the disease. Again: get her to a doctor.

Was there no follow up done after she was told by the Red Cross that she had this?
Nunavut Boy, MLT (Medical Laboratory Technologist)

Apparently, if your mom had Hep C, you have about a 5% of having gotten it from her at birth.


Also, what kind of an asshole would break up with you because you have a disease that has nothing to do with your lifestyle, choices OR with sex?

Hep C wasn’t identified until later, previously you would be diagnosed with hepatitus non-A non-B, which is what I have. I contracted hepatitus non A non B 20 years ago, and while that was a bad time 2 months and I didn’t drink for years, there has been zero impact.

IANADoctor but Hepatitus is only a health issue if it turns chronic, which is a pretty low chance. There’s been treatment for various forms of hepatitus for 15 years now. Your mother obviously is not chronic.

Get the test results, confirm the results if they do show hepatitus, then see a doctor about it. Since this is GQ, I won’t tell you what I think of the boyfriend

In the seventies/eighties a lot of people who had severe colds really had hepatitis. Thus many have the hepatitis antibody present but do not have a chronic case. :eek:

Do you have a cite for this? It does not seem to fit with my medical knowledge of the disease.

Hepatitis C has been around for ages; it was previously called non-A, non-B hepatitis, as others have noted. The virus was finally identified, and called Hepatitis C circa 1991 or so. It was then that the blood banks were able to be made much safer from this infection.

Hepatitis C is transmitted by blood contact. Transfusions pre 1992 were common causes of the disease. These days it’s more from dirty shared IV needles, dirty tattoo needles, childbirth, or blood exposures. Monogamous sex with someone who is Hep C positive is actually pretty low risk for passing on the virus.

Hepatitis C generally doesn’t make people sick when it first infects someone. If they have symptoms, they’re generally symptoms of malaise, aches and pains, and perhaps nausea, and right upper abdominal pain.

But only 15% of those who get the virus manage to shake it off on their own. The other 85% of the people have the virus remain in the system, generally the liver, for the rest of their lives.

I generally rely on the Hep C antibody screening test for the infection. Any individual with a history of IV drug abuse, hepatitis B, liver disease, transfusion before 1992, or elevated ALT over 60 on a blood test gets an antibody screen. If it’s positive, I get a Hep C PCR qualitative test, which looks for the preference of the actual virus. If this is positive, then it’s pretty well assured that the virus is living in the patient.

We’re still learning more about Hep C. But thus far, it seems as if most people who have the virus do OK in the long run. By most people, I’d say 4 out of 5. They have the virus, they may have some transient liver inflammation which they don’t even notice but can be seen on blood tests, but the liver continues to do its job ok, probably for the rest of their lives. These people can pass on the infection, however, via their blood.

But in about 1 out of 5 people, they don’t do so hot in the long run. The liver gets inflamed, it scars, it develops cirrhosis, and suddenly they have all the complications of that condition. And some people with the virus get liver cancer.

How can we tell who will do well, and who won’t? It’s tough. If the person avoids alcohol, acetaminophen, and drugs of abuse, stays fit and eats a healthy diet, their chances of doing ok in the long run are enhanced. But not assured. So liver function tests (blood tests) should be done 2 or 3 times a year to see if the liver is inflamed. And sometimes a liver biopsy can give information as to whether the liver is sustaining significant damage.

What if someone is not doing well? What do we do? Well there is a treatment, a mixture of interferon injections and ribavirin tablets. But it’s a rough treatment. 30% of those who start the treatment drop out due to side effects. And of the people who finish the treatment, less than 40% of them get cured. The treatment lasts up to a year for Genotype I of the virus, and 6 months for Genotype II and III. The cure rates are much better for II & III than for I, but sadly Genotype I is more prevalent.

So I reserve treatment for those patients who appear to not be doing well. If you’re doing ok, my advice is to wait for a better treatment to be developed.

But if you have Hep C, discuss this with your own doctor, preferably one who is well-versed in the disease (many primary care docs are not) and also preferably one who doesn’t feel that every instance of Hep C infection must be treated.

Just my 2 cents.


Something still doesn’t add up to me. If she got HCV in the 70s and was donating blood regularly, why wasn’t it caught before 92-93? I guess what I’m asking is when did the Red Cross start screening donors for HCV antibodies? If the virus was discovered in 1988, did it really take that long to develop a serology test for it?

It it was me, I would get that Red Cross test repeated. I have seen false positive anti-HCV tests in my own lab that have turned negative upon re-centrifugation or recollection.

The virus was known of before 1988, but only as some vector that wasn’t Hep A or B. The ARC couldn’t come up with a test for an unidentified vector, so their test lagged a little behind the date of the actual verification of isolation of the Hep C virus. My experience has been that the ARC is close on the heels of researchers, so that when a significant blood-borne agent is isolated, the ARC has a test for it soon afterwards. They have to be able to prove the the FDA and the public that their blood is as safe as possible in light of identified infectious agents.

Vlad/Igor, MT(ASCP)

I’m sort of confused as to why your mother was able to donate blood from the 70’s to the 90’s if she had been given a transfusion at some time in the 70’s. I thought that if you had ever had a blood transfusion that that would knock you off the donor rolls permanently.

Not meaning to be unsympathetic, but if someone would dump you for a disease you contracted in utero, it sounds like they’re not much of a keeper, anyhow.

If you are tested for this, don’t get too freaked out if you get a positive on the initial screening. My husband got a positive result once several years ago (they were testing for anything and everything because his liver numbers were a bit off.) This mystified us, as he had pretty much zero risk factors for the disease. When they did the more sensitive test (an RNA test?) to confirm it, though, they came back with “Ooops! We were wrong.”

Good news! I don’t have Hepatitis C! :slight_smile: I called the automated phone line about 5 minutes ago and it said my results were “normal.”

Should I get retested again just to be sure or am I in the clear?

That’s excellent news. But I think you should now turn your attention to your boyfriend. Do you really want to be with someone who would leave you because of a disease?

YWalker: no. You can’t donate 6 - 12 months after major surgery or having received a transfusion, but unless you’ve developed an antibody or contracted a disease, you may donate again.