In a move that could save more than 120,000 lives, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proposed changes to its current risk-based testing for the hepatitis C virus.
The new draft policy recommends that all baby boomers—those born from 1945 through 1965—undergo one-time hepatitis testing.
More than 75 percent of Americans infected with hepatitis C are baby boomers. Broad testing of that segment of the population would identify an additional 800,000 people living with the hepatitis C virus.
Many baby boomers are unaware that they carry the virus. Symptoms can be mild or absent for decades. However, more than 15,000 Americans die each year from liver diseases related to the hepatitis C virus, including liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. It is also the most common reason for liver transplants.
Most baby boomers became infected during their teens or twenties through injection of recreational drugs or blood transfusions. Better screening of the country’s blood supply in 1992 reduced the number of infections caused by transfusions.
“Because these exposures were often long ago, many baby boomers may not recall—or may be unwilling to discuss—the events that could have placed them at risk. As a result, many have never been tested for hepatitis C,” the CDC said in a statement.
Those who test positive during routine screening for the hepatitis C virus will be referred for appropriate care and treatment.