The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a draft recommendation that all baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965 get a one-time blood test for Hepatitis C.
Most cases of the potentially deadly disease occur in this age group, and most were infected in their teens and 20s and don’t know they are infected, the agency said.
“CDC views this as an unrecognized health crisis and we needed to take a bold action because current strategies weren't working,” said Dr. John Ward, director of the division of viral hepatitis at CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.
Deaths from the virus topped 15,000 in 2007, according to the CDC.
“The great majority of people—75 percent—of the 3.2 million Americans living with hepatitis C are in the so-called baby boom generation,” Ward noted.
Hepatitis C can be treated with antiviral medications, and as many as 75 percent of those infected can be cured, he pointed out.
If hepatitis C is not detected and not treated, it can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
Current CDC guidelines call for testing only individuals with certain known risk factors for hepatitis C infection. But studies find that many baby boomers do not perceive themselves to be at risk and are not being tested.
By targeting baby boomers, CDC believes that an additional 800,000 people living with hepatitis C could be identified and more than 120,000 hepatitis C-related deaths prevented.
The proposal will be available for public comment and then finalized later in the year.
Source: CDC press release, May 18, 2012.