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Baby Boomers Urged to Get Hepatitis C Test

Kate Yandell - New York Times
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August 21, 2012
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended last week that all Americans born from 1945 through 1965 get a one-time hepatitis C test.

Baby boomers account for 75 percent of the hepatitis C cases in the United States, even though they make up only 27 percent of the total population. Officials estimated that the new recommendation would help to identify 800,000 people with the infection.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus spread through shared needles, blood transfusions that took place before routine screening, and other exposures to infected blood. The virus can also be spread through sexual contact.

Baby boomers could have been infected with the virus decades ago without knowing it, the C.D.C. said. Forty-five percent of infected people don’t report a known exposure risk.

Infected people often show no symptoms but may eventually develop liver cancer, cirrhosis or other liver diseases. They may also unknowingly pass the infection on to other people.

The C.D.C. is recommending the test now in light of the advent of highly effective antiviral treatments, which can cure hepatitis C infections in 75 percent of cases. It is also important for baby boomers to know their status so they can recognize complications of the infection as they age.

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