In an effort to save thousands of lives, federal health officials are urging all U.S. baby boomers to be tested at least once in their life for the hepatitis C virus.
That’s because one in 30 baby boomers – people born between 1945 and 1965 – is infected with the virus, which causes liver diseases and liver cancers, according to a news release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s also the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.
“A one-time blood test for hepatitis C should be on every baby boomer’s medical checklist,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, in the news release. “The new recommendations can protect the health of an entire generation of Americans and save thousands of lives.”
In the past, federal health authorities recommended people get tested if they had known risk factors for hepatitis C infection. While that still holds true, CDC officials estimate as many as 800,000 baby boomers are infected and don’t know it. “Studies show that many baby boomers were infected with the virus decades ago, do not perceive themselves to be at risk, and have never been screened,” the release states.
More than 15,000 Americans – the majority baby boomers – die annually from hepatitis C-related illnesses. However, new therapies can cure as many as 75 percent of infections, according to the CDC.
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