The government says all Baby Boomers should get tested for hepatitis C. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anyone who was born from 1945 to 1965 should get a one-time blood test to see if they have the virus.
Hepatitis C can destroy a person’s liver, but it can take decades to cause liver damage. Experts say many people don’t know they have the blood-borne virus until after it causes damage. The virus gradually scars a liver and leads to cirrhosis or liver cancer. It is the leading cause of liver transplants.
The CDC says about two-thirds of the 3.2 million Americans thought to be infected are Baby Boomers. Previously, testing was only recommended for people who were considered at high risk. The CDC made the recommendations after seeing the number of hepatitis C deaths nearly double since the late 1990s. More than 15,000 Americans die each year from hepatitis C-related illnesses and authorities say Baby Boomers are five times more likely to be infected than other adults.
Hepatitis C is most commonly spread by sharing needles to inject illegal drugs. It was also spread through blood transfusions before widespread screening for the virus was put into place starting in 1992. Some experts also say that tattoos, piercings, shared razor blades and toothbrushes, manicures and sniffed narcotics could cause the virus to spread in some cases.
The CDC is recommending a one-time blood test for hepatitis C. It can be done during a person’s next visit to their doctor. If people do test positive, there are two new drugs that hit the market in 2011 than can cure more people than previously possible.
The CDC has more information on hepatitis C on its website.