All baby boomers need hepatitis C testing, federal health leaders recommend
WALNUT CREEK, CALIF. — All baby boomers should be tested for hepatitis C to help avoid serious liver disease and death, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Thursday.
The CDC estimates that one out of 30 people born from 1945 through 1965 — those now ages 47 to 67 — are infected with the deadly virus, but most are unaware of it.
Many contracted the virus decades ago when they were in their teens or twenties through blood transfusions, medical procedures or getting tattoos before widespread blood screening and other safeguards were in place, said CDC Director Thomas Frieden.
Others may have gotten it through intravenous drug use, even if they only did it once.
Baby boomers are five times more likely than other American adults to be infected with the disease.
“The longer a hepatitis C infection goes undetected, the more damage it causes,” said Dr. John Ward, director of the CDC’s division of viral hepatitis.
Hepatitis C is often called “a silent epidemic” because people may have no noticeable symptoms for decades.
Yet it can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and other illnesses, health experts say. Deaths from hepatitis C-related illnesses are increasing, reaching more than 15,000 annually.
For these reasons, the CDC announced Thursday that it is recommending that all baby boomers receive a onetime blood test for the virus. Health leaders anticipate that 800,000 new cases will be revealed and more than 120,000 lives will be saved.
Detecting the virus is important because newly available therapies can cure up to 75 percent of infections, the CDC said.
Nationwide, nearly 3.2 million Americans are infected with the virus.