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Can you get a false-positive hepatitis C test result?

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Quick Answer

False positive hepatitis C test results occasionally happen, according to MedicineNet. If the hepatitis C enzyme immuno-assays screening test, or EIA, shows a positive result, the probability of having the infection is over 99 percent.

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False positive results in screening tests, or results that indicate the hepatitis C virus is present when it is not, appear most often when low risk individuals, such as blood donors, are tested for the infection, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All positive anti-HCV tests should be followed up with an RNA test to verify the presence of a current infection. The RNA of the hepatitis C virus can be detected in the blood two to three weeks after infection. Recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA) is another test used to confirm the positive results of EIAs to differentiate false positive results occurring in cases in which individuals have had the virus and eliminated it but still have antibodies remaining in the blood, adds MedicineNet.

While the reasons are not clear, approximately 15 to 25 percent of infected individuals immune systems clear the hepatitis virus without treatment, and there is no development of a chronic infection, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seventy-five to 85 percent of the infection cases become chronic.

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