Hepatitis C affects an estimated 3.2 million Americans, most of whom are "baby boomers" (born between 1945 and 1965). While hepatitis C can be cured for the majority of persons treated, the challenge is diagnosing those who are infected.
Early detection is critical, since the risks of transmission and serious liver diseases, like liver cancer and cirrhosis, increase the longer the disease goes undetected. Baby boomers are five times more likely than other American adults to be infected; more than 75% of American adults with hepatitis C are baby boomers.
Blood Test for Hepatitis C
It is now recommended that all baby boomers receive a simple, one-time blood test. Those who test positive are referred to care and treatment and brief screening for alcohol use. Alcohol use can accelerate progression of liver disease in those with hepatitis C.
"The vast majority of American adults with hepatitis C are baby boomers. It is important that we test people in this age group to identify undiagnosed cases," explains Betsy Peerless MD with TriHealth Physician Partner Health First in Mason. "Deaths from hepatitis C are on the rise, and new therapies can cure up to 75% of persons treated for hepatitis C. The key is testing and diagnosing. All baby boomers should call their physician and get tested."
Why is Hepatitis C More Prevalent in the Baby Boomer Generation?
Many baby boomers were infected with hepatitis C when they were in their teens and twenties. Some may have become infected through blood transfusions or other healthcare exposures before universal precautions and widespread blood screening began in 1992. Others may have become infected from experimentation with drug use, even if only once decades ago.
Because these exposures were often long ago, many baby boomers may not recall – or may be unwilling to discuss – the events that could have placed them at risk. As a result, many have never been tested for hepatitis C.