Baby boomers are five times more likely than other American adults to be infected with the disease. In fact, more than 75 percent of American adults with hepatitis C are baby boomers.
Experts suspect that many baby boomers were infected with hepatitis C when they were in their teens and twenties before universal precautions and widespread blood screening began in 1992. 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.
As a result, CDC is proposing an expansion of its current risk-based guidelines to include a simple, one-time blood test for all baby boomers. For those who test positive, the new draft recommendations call for referral to care and treatment and a brief screening for alcohol use, which can accelerate progression of liver disease in those with hepatitis C.
Existing, risk-based guidelines include:
- Anyone who has ever injected illegal drugs
- Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants before July 1992, or clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
- Patients who have ever received long-term hemodialysis treatment
- Persons with known exposures to hepatitis C, such as:
- Health care workers after needlesticks involving blood from a patient with hepatitis C
- Recipients of blood or organs from a donor who later tested positive for hepatitis C
- People living with HIV
- People with signs or symptoms of liver disease (e.g., abnormal liver enzyme tests)
- Children born to mothers who have hepatitis C
Deaths from hepatitis C are on the rise. As baby boomers age, the likelihood that they will develop serious, life-threatening complications from the disease will continue to increase — unless those infections are diagnosed and treated. New treatments can cure up to 75 percent of hepatitis C cases. Identifying silent cases of hepatitis infection has the potential to save more lives than ever before, and the research pipeline indicates that even more effective therapies may be available in the future!