Baby Boomers Must Get Tested For Hepatitis C, CDC Says

By Amir Khan on August 17, 2012 7:38 AM EDT

Elderly Woman
Hepatitis C is spreading across the United States, and baby boomers are at particular risk (Photo: Creative Commons)

Hepatitis C is spreading across the United States, and baby boomers are at particular risk, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease can lie dormant for decades in the bloodstream, which means that it can go undiagnosed.

Many of the 3.2 million people in the United States infected with hepatitis do not know it. Symptoms are either not present or very mild, which could leave the disease undiagnosed for decades, the authors wrote. More than 15,000 people die from the disease every year.

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"Unless we take action, we project deaths will increase substantially," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, told the Associated Press.

Current or former injection drug users, including those who injected only once many years ago are at the highest risk, according to the CDC.  People who received a blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to July 1992 and people who received transfusions to help with blood clotting before 1987 should be tested as well, which is why many baby boomers need to get tested for hepatitis C.

Regardless of the method of transmission, baby boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults.

Untreated hepatitis C is the primary cause of liver cancer and cirrhosis, which causes scarring of the liver. Liver transplants are common in people with the disease.

"I have met too many patients who were diagnosed with hepatitis C at the time they developed liver cancer or when they needed a liver transplant," Dr. Andrew Muir, a Duke University physician, told the Associated Press.

Knowing your status is one of the biggest weapons against hepatitis C, according to the CDC. The condition is treatable and people who are at-risk need to get tested.

Hepatitis C is treated with antivirals given over the course of a year and treatment is effective in approximately 40 percent of cases, according to the CDC. However, new drugs have the ability to boost that rate to 75 percent and take only six months to work.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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