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CDC: All Baby Boomers Should Get Tested for Hepatitis C

New Move Could Identify More Than 800,000 People With Hepatitis C
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 16, 2012 -- Effective immediately, all U.S. baby boomers should get a one-time blood test for the hepatitis C virus, the CDC says.

One in 30 baby boomers born between 1945 through 1965 has been infected with hepatitis C, and most have no clue. Hepatitis C can go undetected without symptoms, but slowly causes serious liver diseases, including liver cancer. It is also the leading cause of liver transplants in the U.S.

"Three-quarters of all hepatitis C infections and three-quarters of hepatitis C deaths occur in baby boomers," CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, said today during a conference call with reporters. "Baby boomers are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C than other adult Americans."

The new recommendations strengthen existing guidelines that state that all people at high risk for hepatitis C should be tested. "While we continue to recommend testing for high-risk individuals, baby boomers are now added to the list," Frieden says. This move could help identify 800,000 more Americans with hepatitis C.

New Therapies Can Cure Hepatitis C

"The sooner you know, the more you can protect your liver and your life," Frieden says.

If the test is positive, people can lower their risk of liver cancer and cirrhosis by:

  • Avoiding certain medications that affect the liver
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B

New therapies can cure up to 75% of infections. Frieden says the expanded testing, along with appropriate care and treatment, could save more than 120,000 lives.

Frieden, a baby boomer himself, plans to get tested at his next well visit.

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