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Positive Hep-C test
EJMJR posted:
I am new to this Hepatitis Forum & this is my 1st posted message.

I was just diagnosed with Hepatitis-C in 6-2011. Further blood tests were pending of which I just learned were viral-load tests:
1) Hep C Virus RNA was "Detected" by TMA.
2) Hep C Virus RNA was < 615 IU/ml.
3)Hep C Virus RNA was < 3200 copies/ml.
Last week, my Dr. phoned me of these results & said the viral load was low, with no treatment being necessary at these levels.

My wife recalls reading online that patients with low viral load counts usually respond well to treatment. So, now I am starting to have some questions.

In online-researching the above tests, it does seem my Viral-Load values are low. Does this mean, the Viral-Load count will increase over time & then treatment will be initiated OR does my low Viral-Load counts mean that they were once elevated & have lowered overtime on their own? How do I know how long that I've had Hep-C? The only symptom that I've experienced is Fatigue, but do not honestly recall when I started feeling so tired.

I had heart-bypass-surgery in 1994 & some invasive dental work since 1990: extractions, peridontal treatment, root canals...but was honestly not an IV drug user, so have had no reason to share any needle usage. My wife was negative in 1999 for Hep-C, when she was tested for Bone Marrow Donor eligibility. After my 6-2011 diagnosis, she requested re-testing from her Dr. & is still negative for Hep-C. Anyway, we do not know when/how I contracted Hep-C, so are focusing on the NOW, taking measures to prevent spread: my razors, nail-clippers & toothbrush/paste are kept separate.

In conclusion, I read Dr. Melissa Palmer's post of about 1 week ago: "Some doctors recommend treatment ASAP after a diagnosis of HCV is made. If HCV is caught during the acute phase ( within 6 months from time of virus acquisition) then cure rates approach 95% with antiviral treatment. Alternatively there is a 15-20% chance of viral eradication without treatment during this initial acute - 6 month period. After this time it is chronic and requires antiviral treatment for cure".

How do I know if I am in the acute phase since I don't know when I first contracted Hep-C virus? Does any of the above completed tests provide a clue as to when Hep-C was contracted, indicating whether I'm in ACUTE or CHRONIC phase?

Many thanks in advance to any informative responses...
hawgfan responded:
VERY good questions. Wish I had answers but I will add you to my prayers.
jamesraymond responded:
would suggest having routine blood work done. if the virus is dropping good if not maybe you want to consider treatment. but from what i understand treatment isnt always necessary if there is no significant damage to the liver
EJMJR replied to jamesraymond's response:
Many thanks to my 2 responders, I appreciate your concern & information.

Is having a genotype test recommended?-- this test was never done.

I will check my liver enzyme labwork to see if there were any changes, is that what indicates damage to the liver.

I am going to a Veteran's Clinic. In June, ,my primary Dr. just bluntly told me that I had Hepatitis C, treatment was expensive, if I even wanted treatment. No further elaboration from the Doc...not whether I'm acute or chronic, just tells me that I've been exposed to Hep-C sometime in my past & my viral load is low.

I cannot afford a civilian private guess I will just have to be content.

billm57 responded:
im not sure there is a way to tell for sure - low viral load is not a good predictor - you could be clearing spontaneously - another VL test with a smaller number could confirm this - sometimes liver enzymes ( alt ast ) are extremely elevated in acute phase
i take it you havent had a biopsy or other diagnostic fibrosis test yet - you mention some distant past exposure possibilities - nothing recent comes to mind ? - do you see a gastro or hepatologist or just a gp - if gp maybe have them refer you to a specialist - i think most would say wait - thats not my opinion but im not a specialist - best wishes
EJMJR replied to billm57's response:
Many thanks billm57 for your latest response.

I have not had a liver biopsy, just liver enzyme testing & basic Hep-C test(positive) & viral load testing.

I will ask the VA Dr. how often Viral Load tests will be done, My liver enzymes in August were within normal range & only slightly elevated: 6-9 units above the normal range. So, guess that means my Hep-C has been ongoing/chronic.

I cannot think of any recent that would be exposure possibilities.

At this point, I probably won't seek treatment, but will wait & see how all goes, b/c I've heard the treatment can be rough, almost as bad or worse than the disease. All that I experience is fatigue and guess that isn't too bad.

Thank you,
billm57 replied to EJMJR's response:
if youre not on treatment or diagnosing for spontaneous clearing - frequent viral load testing is not necessary - liver enzyme tests can be misleading - many people with cirrhosis have only slightly elevated values - you may not want to seek treatment yet but if i were you id have some type of fibrosis scoring done - yes treatment may be as bad as the disease in the short term but the long term is quite another story

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