The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the recommendation to find hundreds of thousands of people who have the infection, which greatly increases their chances of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer, but don’t know it. If you didn’t know, Hep C kills more Americans each year than AIDS and is the leading reason for liver transplants. Wow, we here at ARE knew that it was bad but didn’t realize how bad.
The hepatitis C virus is transmitted by blood, usually through intravenous drug use or transfusions, before a blood test for it became widely available in 1992. Extremely small amounts of the virus are able to cause infection. Some experts believe that rolled-up dollar bills used to snort cocaine and passed person-to-person can carry enough infected blood to transmit the virus.
Epidemiologists estimate that about 3.2 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, 75% of baby boomers. The disease kills at least 15,000 people a year.
The CDC’s strategy calls for a one-time voluntary blood test for everyone born from 1945 to 1965. The test would be done by doctors, clinics and hospitals as part of routine medical care. Hepatitis C tests now target mostly people who report high-risk activities or show signs of abnormal liver function. The strategy could identify 800,000 new cases in baby boomers and prevent 120,000 hepatitis-related deaths in that age group. Treatment of hepatitis C infection takes at least six months and consists of pills and a weekly injection. The cure rate used to be less than 30%; with a new three-drug strategy, it can be as high as 75%.
So if you’re in this mature age group and are worried about Hep C, get yourself tested.
Phillip Bailey (NVA Reporter) & Tom Thayer