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What Is a High/Low Viral Load in a Hepatitis C Test?

What does it mean to have a high/low viral load when you are tested for hepatitis C?

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Put simply, viral load is a measure of the amount of hepatitis C virus (abbreviated HCV) in your blood. Your healthcare provider will determine your viral load by getting a blood test that measures the amount of HCV RNA in your blood. RNA is the genetic material of the hepatitis C virus. So, if there is HCV RNA in the blood, we know the virus is present and can make more copies of itself.

Viral load doesn't relate to the severity of hepatitis C infection -- in other words, a higher viral load doesn't mean you're sicker than someone with a lower viral load. However, viral load can be used to determine if a hepatitis C infection is present, to predict how successful treatment may be, and to see how well treatment is working.
Viral load results are given as international units per milliliter, or IU per mL. The results are usually categorized as either high or low. Generally, a viral load of 800,000 IU per mL or more is considered high, while a viral load of less than 800,000 IU per mL is considered low. If your viral load is low when you're tested for hepatitis C, you may have a better chance of responding to currently available medicines.
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