Testing and diagnostics
According to estimates, up to one third of people infected with HCV in Switzerland remain untested. And up to 50% of people undergoing addiction treatment who are at risk for HCV infection are not adequately tested.
A rapid antibody test of blood or saliva will reveal whether a person has ever been in contact with the hepatitis C virus. In case of a negative rapid test result despite strong suspicion of an infection, the test is supplemented through collection of whole blood. If the result remains negative, the blood test must be repeated three months after exposure. If an antibody screening test for HCV comes back positive, the presence of a chronic hepatitis C infection must be confirmed through the detection of HCV ribonucleic acid (HCV RNA) with two tests six months apart. Once a hepatitis C infection has been cured, HCV antibodies are detectable for life. For that reason, if a reinfection is suspected, the blood must not be tested for antibodies but for HCV-RNA. In case of ongoing high-risk behaviour, this should be done at least once a year.
In case of an HCV infection, patients should be referred to a specialist for further evaluation and treatment. There is a statutory reporting requirement for hepatitis C, which means that an infection must be reported to the competent cantonal medical office.