On the heels of the first National Hepatitis Testing Day on May 19, CDC experts are proposing that people born between 1946 and 1964 get a one-time test for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Why? Research shows more than 3 million Americans have hepatitis C, and most don’t know it. Additionally, Boomers account for the majority of these cases—yet 80 percent of that generation don’t consider themselves at any risk for the progressive liver-damaging disease, according to a recent national survey by the American Gastroenterological Association.
Hepatitis C—aka a “silent killer”—can reside in the body for years without causing symptoms. Left untreated, the virus can lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis. Fortunately, new therapies can cure the infection (which is also a leading reason for liver transplants) or control its consequences in many cases.
“Identifying hidden infections early will allow more Baby Boomers to receive care and treatment—before they develop life-threatening liver disease,” stresses Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Prevention.
Researchers predict that a one-time screening of adults now in their 50s and 60s would identify an additional 800,000 people with HCV and save more than 120,000 lives.
Today, most people catch the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before 1992, when widespread screening of the blood supply began in the United States, hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
Take a CDC risk quiz and learn more about Hepatitis C testing, transmission, and treatment at Know More Hepatitis.