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Hepatitis Health Center

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Test All Baby Boomers for Hepatitis C: Experts

This generation has highest rate of infection, likely contracted decades ago


Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said he welcomes the new guidelines, which were published June 25 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"I am absolutely thrilled that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which has had a head-in-the-sand approach toward screening, has come out for a one-time screening for hepatitis C," Siegel said.

Siegel encourages everyone at risk to get tested.

Screening for hepatitis C involves a simple, inexpensive blood test. Those who test positive usually receive a course of antiviral medication over several months. Most people have no detectable virus following treatment, Bibbins-Domingo said.

"Treatment is effective in preventing the complications of hepatitis C," Bibbins-Domingo said. "Treatments have gotten better, and I suspect treatments will continue to get better."

Many people who test positive for the virus have no signs of active infection. Whether they should be treated should be discussed with their doctor, she said.

Although baby boomers should have a one-time screening, those who continue to be at risk for the infection should be screened more often, Bibbins-Domingo said.

Past or current injection-drug use is the greatest risk for hepatitis C infection. Also at high risk are people with a history of blood transfusions before widespread adoption of screening and infection-control measures in 1992; people who have undergone long-term dialysis treatment; and those with exposure to hepatitis C in health care settings. People with HIV/AIDS, a history of intranasal drug use or tattoos from unregulated or unsafe parlors also are at greater risk than the general population.

This expanded screening may identify millions of Americans who were unaware of their infection, the task force said.

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