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Did you know that Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the number one reason for liver transplants in America? Between 1999 and 2007, more people died from Hepatitis C related complications than HIV. Despite this, many people live with the Hepatitis C virus for years, without experiencing any symptoms, while it silently causes liver damage. At particular risk is the growing population of baby boomers – adults born between 1945 and 1965. Baby boomers account for over 75 percent of Hepatitis C cases and are five times more likely to be infected than those in other age groups.
As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all baby boomers get tested for Hepatitis C, regardless of whether they think they are at risk.
Dr. Donald M. Jensen, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for Liver Diseases at the University of Chicago Medical Center, explains, “Most boomers may have been infected in the 1970s and 1980s when Hepatitis C virus rates were the highest. Since chronic Hepatitis C can go unnoticed for decades, many baby boomers may not even know they are infected. Universal screening of blood wasn’t in place until 1992, so many boomers may have been infected from receiving contaminated blood products without being aware. I encourage all baby boomers to speak to their doctor about getting tested.”
As baby boomers with Hepatitis C age, it becomes more likely that they will suffer serious complications. Since many baby boomers don’t realize they are at risk and aren’t getting tested, the number of Hepatitis C related deaths is increasing. However, once those infected are diagnosed through a blood test, they can speak to their doctor and take the necessary steps to manage their condition. It’s important that those who have Hepatitis C realize that they shouldn’t feel ashamed.
Dr. Jensen and the CDC would like to see all boomers get tested for Hepatitis C and if positive, seek follow-up care. Speak to your doctor or visit www.cdc.gov for more information about Hepatitis C.