Hepatitis C: Testing Baby Boomers Saves Lives
Hepatitis C is a liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis C virus. Once infected with the hepatitis C virus, nearly 8 in 10 people remain infected for life. People with hepatitis C often have no symptoms and can live for decades without feeling sick. For some people, the disease can cause serious health problems including liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the leading reason for liver transplants.
- About 3 million adults in the US are infected with the hepatitis C virus, most are baby boomers.
- Anyone can get hepatitis C, but adults born from 1945-1965, or baby boomers, are 5 times more likely to have hepatitis C.
- About 3 in 4 people don’t know they’re infected so they aren’t getting the necessary medical care and treatment.
Getting Tested Is The Only Way To Know If You Have Hepatitis C
A simple blood test, called an antibody test, can tell if you have ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus. However, this test cannot tell if you are still infected with the virus. If the test is positive, then you need a different follow-up blood test to determine if you are still infected. About 1 in 2 adults who had a positive antibody test did not get a follow-up test reported to the health department in a CDC study. Without a follow-up test, you won’t know if you are still infected with the hepatitis C virus.
Baby boomers can:
- Ask their doctor or nurse about getting tested for hepatitis C.
- Make sure to get a follow-up test if the antibody test is positive to see if they are still infected with the hepatitis C virus.
- Encourage family and friends born from 1945-1965 to get tested for hepatitis C.
Doctors, nurses, and other health care providers can:
- Test patients with other risks for hepatitis C, including blood transfusions before 1992 or injection drug use.
- Make sure everyone who has a positive hepatitis C antibody test gets the follow-up blood test (RNA Testing) and is linked to lifesaving care and treatment if infected.
Science Behind this Issue
- Recommendations for the Identification of Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection Among Persons Born During 1945–1965 [PDF - 36 pages] MMWR 2012; Vol. 61 (RR04)
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