CDC Recommends Hepatitis C Tests For Baby Boomers
May 20, 2012

CDC Recommends Hepatitis C Tests For Baby Boomers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging baby boomers to have themselves tested for hepatitis C, a disease which results in more fatalities each year than the AIDS virus and has infected an estimated three-plus million people nationwide, according to various media reports.

On Friday, the CDC recommended a one-time voluntary blood test for the hundreds of thousands of Americans born between the years of 1945 and 1965, David Brown of the Washington Post said. The test would be conducted by doctors and hospitals as part of routine checkups, he added, and could prevent as many as 120,000 hepatitis-related deaths amongst baby boomers.

Baby boomers are the most likely generation to become infected, but experts believe that just one out of every four of those individuals had been tested for the virus, according to BBC News. Hepatitis C, which was first identified in 1989, can cause liver cancer or cirrhosis but can also take decades before symptoms are recognized.

From 1999 through 2007 the number of US residents dying from causes related to the ailment has doubled, and two million of the 3.2 million Americans known to have hepatitis C are baby boomers, the British news organization added. It was most frequently transmitted by intravenous drug use and blood transfusions prior to 1992, when a test became available for it.

"The CDC views hepatitis C as an unrecognized health crisis for the country, and we believe the time is now for a bold response," CDC hepatitis expert Dr. John W. Ward told AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe on Friday. Likewise, he told Brown, "Many baby boomers may not even remember the behaviors that put them at risk."

"About 3 percent of baby boomers test positive for the virus, the CDC estimates. Of those, some manage to clear the infection from their bodies without treatment, but still have lingering antibodies that give a positive initial test result. That's why confirmatory tests are needed," Stobbe added.