Are Baby Boomers More At Risk Of Having Hepatitis C?

Health authorities in the United States are still urging baby boomers — people born from 1945 to 1965 — to get a one-time blood test to check for the presence of the deadly hepatitis C virus (HCV).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) said this precaution is still necessary because three out of every 100 baby boomers are infected with HCV.

This ratio is at least five times higher than in any other group of adults and accounted for about 75 percent of HCV cases. The diagnosis of HCV among baby boomers will identify those with long-duration chronic disease and those who are at risk for the most advanced forms of liver disease.

Most baby boomers are believed to have become infected in the 1960s through the 1980s when transmission of hepatitis C was highest, the CDC said.

In 2012, both the CDC and USPSTF formally recommended all baby boomers get the one-time blood test and those at high risk for other reasons be screened.

Left undiagnosed and untreated, HCV is far deadlier among the elderly baby boomers. Hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. It usually doesn’t cause symptoms, which is why most people with hepatitis C don’t know they’re infected.

There is also mounting evidence chronic or long-term hepatitis C is associated with increased risk for diseases outside the liver. These include heart and kidney disease, as well as diabetes.

Health authorities said many cases of hepatitis C among baby boomers were not previously diagnosed. This was likely due to a combination of factors such as doctors not being adequately engaged and patients in denial of their risky behaviors.

They believe the prevalence of HCV is so high among baby boomers because this group might have been more likely to engage in occasional or ongoing injection drug use during their young adulthood, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.

They pointed out HCV screening is more important than ever for baby boomers. They said it’s critical they identify everyone with chronic HCV because they are at increased risk for early death due to liver disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is committed to a global effort to reduce new cases of HCV infection by 90 percent and to reduce HCV-related mortality by 65 percent by 2030.

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