The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all Americans aged 47-67 years should be tested once for hepatitis C infection, according to a CDC statement published Aug. 16 online. The CDC proposed the recommendation in May 2012.
Data from previous studies suggest that the baby boomers, defined by the CDC as individuals born between 1945 and 1965, are at increased risk for hepatitis C for many reasons, including blood transfusions, hospital exposures, and a possible history of risky behaviors in their younger years. However, many people in this age group are amenable to hepatitis C testing if it is available to them.
According to the CDC statement, "1 in 30 baby boomers has been infected with hepatitis C, and most don’t know it." This life-threatening infection has few symptoms and affects approximately 3.2 million U.S. adults, most of whom are baby boomers, according to the CDC. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States, and the virus causes serious liver diseases including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The CDC said in the statement that a one-time hepatitis C test for all baby boomers could potentially identify more than 800,000 additional cases. If treated early, up to 75% of these individuals could be cured, avoiding the costs and serious complications associated with untreated hepatitis C infections. New therapies have recently improved the cure rate significantly.
The CDC encourages clinicians to promote hepatitis C testing to their baby boomer patients.
"Identifying these hidden infections early will allow more baby boomers to receive care and treatment, before they develop life-threatening liver disease," Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said in the CDC statement. One-time hepatitis C testing for baby boomers "could potentially save tens of thousands of lives," he said.