May 21, 2012
CDC on Friday announced a proposal to recommend that all people born between 1945 to 1965 get tested for hepatitis C virus. Baby boomers comprise more than 2 million of the estimated 3.2 million Americans thought to have HCV, but many do not know they are infected. CDC officials hope testing all baby boomers will help 800,000 get treated and prevent more than 120,000 deaths.
"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 Dr. John W. Ward, director of CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis.
From 1999 to 2007, U.S. deaths from HCV-related illnesses nearly doubled, recent research found. CDC said more than 15,000 Americans die annually of HCV-related disease, even though two new HCV drugs promise to cure many more patients than was possible before.
Officials think hundreds of thousands of people were infected with HCV each year during the 1970s and 1980s, and many were young adult baby boomers. CDC estimates that 3 percent of boomers test positive for HCV, and most are active, dangerous infections, Ward said.
As many as a quarter of baby boomers with HCV do not remember what put them at risk. The kinds of experiences that might have exposed a person to the blood-borne virus may not ring a bell for many patients or physicians, experts said. Many are diagnosed by happenstance, such as when they donate blood or get tested for a life insurance policy, said Dr. Ryan Ford, an Emory University hepatitis specialist.
The proposed recommendations are expected to become final later this year.
[PNU editor's note: For more information, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/.]