Baby boomers need to get screened for hepatitis C

80 people per month are diagnosed with HCV at Norton Healthcare alone

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than HIV. Baby boomers make up 75 percent of all HCV cases, yet 80 percent do not consider themselves to be at risk.

Top risks for HCV

  • Born between 1945 and 1965 (baby boomers)
  • Received a blood or organ transplant before 1992
  • Received dialysis for a long period of time
  • Injected or inhaled illicit drugs
  • Have HIV
  • Received a tattoo in an unsterile environment

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all baby boomers get tested for chronic HCV. Many of those infected may not have symptoms for years and often do not know they have the virus.

Chronic HCV is a very serious illness. Left untreated over time, it can cause liver disease, liver failure and even liver cancer. But it is curable if caught soon enough through screening and follow-up care.

The reason for the high rates among baby boomers is not entirely understood. One possible cause is infection from medical equipment or procedures before universal precautions and infection control procedures were adopted.

With the help of a grant from Gilead Sciences, Norton Healthcare is increasing its screening  for chronic hepatitis. In addition, Norton Infectious Disease Specialists has hired additional physicians and added a second location to meet growing demand.

Patients who test positive can be seen within 72 hours for evaluation and treatment at Norton Infectious Disease Specialists. Treatment with medication generally runs from 12 to 24 weeks, depending on how advanced the disease has become.

For most people, chronic hepatitis shows no symptoms until liver problems have developed. If you’re a baby boomer, be proactive. Discuss the screening with your primary care physician. It’s best to be in the know!

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