Hepatitis C and Baby Boomers

Hepatitis C and Baby Boomers

Date:  5/29/12

 

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control called for all baby boomers to get a one-time blood test for Hepatitis C.  The current recommendation is to only test people with known risk factors.

 

If detected and treated, this course of action could lead 800,000 more baby boomers to get treatment and could save more than 120,000 lives.

 

What is Hepatitis C?

  • Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that attacks the liver.  It causes scarring and leads to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

 

  • The virus can also damage other parts of the body.

 

  • 15,000 Americans die each year from Hepatitis C-related illnesses.

 

  • Baby boomers born between 1945-1965 account for nearly 75% of the 3.2 Americans infected with the virus.

 

Why the concern?

  • It can take years for the disease to be detected.  Many people who are infected may not know it.

 

What are the risk factors?

  • Intravenous drug use.  The virus can pass from person to person through shared needles
  • People infected with HIV
  • Pepole with signs of liver disease
  • Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants before July 1992, when better testing of blood donors became available

 

Should baby boomers be the only ones tested?

  • Talk to your health care provider if you feel you might be at risk for the disease.
  • People who did not engage in drug use, but may have done other things that could involve blood –sharing razor blades, getting tattoos or piercings, even manicures – might have put them at risk to contract the virus.

 

What treatment options are available?

  • Approximately 15-25% of people clear the virus from their bodies without treatment, but still have lingering antibodies.  That’s how a positive initial test is made.  Follow up confirmation tests are needed in these cases.
  • Two new medications hit the market last year that promise to cure many more people than was previously possible.  If you do have Hepatitis C, talk to your health care provider about the best course of treatment for you.

 

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