Health officials at the Center for Disease Control are recommending that all adults born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for a dangerous, liver-destroying virus known colloquially as hepatitis C. The new recommendation, issued Friday, cites evidence that baby boomers account for over 2 million of the 3.2 million American cases of the blood-born and often sexually transmitted disease.
“The CDC views hepatitis C as an unrecognized health crisis for the country, and we believe the time is now for a bold response,” said the CDC’s hepatitis chief, Dr. John Ward. He hopes the new campaign will lead to 800,000 more hep C tests performed on baby boomers, which he asserts could save more than 120,000 lives.
Recent data on the spread of the disease shows that there was a 50 percent jump in the number of Americans dying from hep C complications over the eight-year period from 1999 to 2007. The availability of two new drugs to treat the virus means that many of those deaths may have been preventable.
The CDC estimates that around 17,000 hep C infections occur annually in the United States. The virus gradually destroys the liver, ultimately causing life threatening conditions such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Out of all liver diseases, Hep C is the number one cause of liver transplantation.