The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today firmed up its recommendation that all baby boomers -- those individuals born between 1945 to 1965 -- receive one-time testing for the viral infection hepatitis C.
Why the Baby Boomer Generation?
At one point, the CDC had considered recommending testing for this age group based on known risk factors, but changed that stance to include all baby boomers due to the prevalence of the disease in the age group.
The CDC estimates that 75 percent of the 2.7 to 3.9 million American adults with hepatitis C, HCV, are in the baby boomer age group. Put in yet another way, one in 30 baby boomers has HCV and most are as of yet unaware of having it.
Why Should All Baby Boomers Get Tested?
During the period of adolescence and early adulthood, many in the boomer generation engaged in, or were associated with others who engaged in, high risk behaviors such as using injectable drugs, unprotected sex, or may have received blood or a blood product that contained the HCV virus. At that time, the known virus had not yet been identified, so blood and its products were not screened for the organism.
Additionally, the CDC reports that of all known people with hepatitis C, only 55 percent identified any of the known risk factors having been in their history. This means a full 45 percent -- almost half of all diagnosed people with HCV -- have no idea how they acquired the illness.
How Bad Can Hepatitis C Be?
MayoClinic.com explains that unlike hepatitis A or hepatitis B, there are often no symptoms associated with hepatitis C until decades after acquiring the initial infection. In the meantime, the virus attacks the liver slowly but surely, doing damage along the way. It isn't until such liver damage begins to produce symptoms or routine liver tests begin to show trouble that the HCV is finally diagnosed.
The CDC relates that hepatitis C is the leading cause of the need for liver transplantation and development liver cancer. The incidence of cirrhosis secondary to hepatitis C has also been on the rise.
If you are a baby boomer, you need to discuss the CDC's recommendation for HCV testing with your health care provider. If you have the disease working silently in your body now, the sooner you know, the sooner you can begin treatment to offset the serious complications of allowing the disease to take its toll on your future health.
Smack dab in the middle of the baby boomer generation, L.L. Woodard is a proud resident of "The Red Man" state. With what he hopes is an everyman's view of life's concerns both in his state and throughout the nation, Woodard presents facts and opinions based on common-sense solutions.
- Infectious Diseases
- baby boomers