Hepatitis C Test Recommended for Baby Boomers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended in August that baby boomers, generally Americans born from 1945 through 1965, get a one-time hepatitis C test.  Baby boomers account for 75 percent of the hepatitis C cases in the United States, even though they make up only 27 percent of the total population.  The CDC estimated that 800,000 infections among this subset could be identified with the screening.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus  that can be spread through shared needles, blood transfusions that took place before routine screening, sexual contact, and other types of exposures to infected blood.  According to the CDC, infection amongst  baby boomers may have occurred decades ago without the infected individual being aware of it.  It was estimated by the CDC that 45 percent of infected people did not report a known exposure risk.

Most people who were recently infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms. About 1 in 10 have yellowing of the skin (jaundice) that gets better.  Of people infected with hepatitis C, most develop a long-term (chronic) infection with no symptoms.  Long-term infection may cause permanent scarring of the liver, a condition known as cirrhosis.

The CDC recommended the test after observing the effectiveness of antiviral treatments, which can cure hepatitis C infections in 75 percent of cases.  Individuals in this age group were also advised to know their status so they could recognize complications of the infection as they age.