The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has announced that people born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested to see if they are infected with Hepatitis C. While symptoms may take years to develop, Hepatitis C may cause severe damage to the liver; including scarring, liver failure, and liver cancer.
According to The New York Times, the group had previously stated that Hepatitis C tests would only provide baby boomers “a small benefit,” in contrast with recommendations by the Center of Disease Control (CDC). The Task Force said that new studies, public comments and improved treatments influenced its decision to change its position.
What is Hepatitis C?
The word “Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common type of viral hepatitis is Hepatitis C. Symptoms of chronic Hepatitis C can take up to 30 years to develop. When symptoms do appear, they often are a sign of advanced liver disease. Symptoms of Hepatitis C can include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, grey-colored stools, joint pain and/or jaundice.
More than 3 million U.S. citizens are infected with Hepatitis C, and of those, about 75% are baby boomers. The CDC reports, “The reason that baby boomers have high rates of Hepatitis C is not completely understood.” Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the leading cause of liver transplants but many of those infected are unaware of their condition because they have no symptoms. Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person. Those who received blood transfusions before 1992 or used intravenous drugs are at the highest risk.
For more information about Hepatitis C testing, talk to your doctor and check out the CDC’s printable fact sheet available on their website.
Source: “Hepatitis C Test for Baby Boomers Urged by Health Panel” by Andrew Pollack, The New York Times, June 24, 2013.