HCV infection is usually detected during routine blood testing. Elevated levels of the liver enzyme alanine transaminase (ALT) would alert a physician to a possible infection with HCV. If a doctor suspects HCV, hepatitis C testing typically begins with a blood test to detect the presence of antibodies to the hepatitis C virus (Wilkins 2010, CDC 2012a).
The disease can be diagnosed by the presence of HCV antibodies or the direct presence of the virus or viral products in the blood. If the screen is positive, a liver biopsy may also be recommended to assess the severity of the disease and guide treatment decisions (Wilkins 2010).
Baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) in particular are urged to get tested because rates of HCV infection are particularly high in this population (CDC 2012c).