Hepatitis CThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all Americans born from 1945 through 1965 get a one-time hepatitis C test.

“An estimated 3.2 million people in the United States are infected, but the vast majority of them don’t know it,” Dr. Mark S. Sulkowski, a liver specialist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in an interview to Jane Brody of the New York Times (Progress Against Hepatitis C, a Sneaky Virus by JANE E. BRODY , Feb 24,2014)

 

High Risk Factors

Previously, the CDC recommended screening for people who were considered at high risk for Hepatitis C injection with these risk factors:

  • A history of using injected illegal drugs
  • Recipients of blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992, or of clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
  • Children born to infected mothers
  • Undergoing kidney dialysis
  • Infection with H.I.V.
  • Symptoms of liver disease, abnormal liver function tests
  • Healthcare workers possibly exposed to infected blood

Baby Boomers Account for 75% of Hep C Cases in U.S.

But even this wide net has missed huge numbers of infected individuals, Dr. Sulkowski said. Baby boomers account for 75 percent of the hepatitis C cases in the United States, even though they make up only 27 percent of the total population. Officials estimated that the new recommendation would help to identify 800,000 people with the infection.

Baby boomers could have been infected with the virus decades ago without knowing it, the CDC said. Forty-five percent of infected people don’t report a known exposure risk. Many at high risk are reluctant to identify themselves for screening. Others are unaware that they might be infected, including those exposed as infants or children. It is important to be screened for Hepatitis C, since in more than half of infected people, the abnormality does not show up in routine blood tests until serious damage has occurred.

Infected people often show no symptoms but may eventually develop liver cancer, cirrhosis or other liver diseases. They may also unknowingly pass the infection on to other people.

The CDC is recommending the test now in light of the advent of highly effective antiviral treatments, which can cure hepatitis C infections in 75 percent of cases. It is also important for baby boomers to know their status so they can recognize complications of the infection as they age.

HEPATITIS C FACTS

  • While anyone can get Hepatitis C, more than 75% of adults infected are baby boomers, people born from1945 through 1965.
  • Most people with Hepatitis C don’t know they are infected.
  • Baby boomers are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C, and liver disease, liver cancer, and deaths from Hepatitis C are on the rise.
  • The longer people delay the diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis C, the more likely they are to develop serious, life-threatening liver disease.
  • Getting tested can help people learn if they are infected and get them into lifesaving care and treatment.
  • Treatments are available that can eliminate the virus from the body and prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.

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