May 23, 2012
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend all adults born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for hepatitis C (HCV), believing this demographic makes up more than 75 percent of those currently living with the virus.
According to CBS.com, experts believe that hundreds of thousands of HCV infections in the U.S. happened during the 1970s and '80s, and that many adults infected with HCV have unknowingly lived with the disease for years because they were never tested for it.
Baby boomers account for 2 million of the 3.2 million Americans infected with the blood-borne liver-destroying virus. CDC officials believe the new measure could lead 800,000 more boomers to get treatment and could save more than 120,000 lives.
"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, the CDC's hepatitis chief.
Several developments drove the CDC's push for wider testing, he said. Recent data has shown that from 1999 and 2007, there was a 50 percent increase in the number of Americans dying from hepatitis C-related diseases. Also, two drugs hit the market last year that promise to cure many more people than was previously possible.
HCV attacks the liver and can lead to chronic cirrhosis, liver cancer and death. The virus is most commonly transmitted by sharing needles or having unprotected sex with someone who has HCV. More than 15,000 deaths each year are attributed to hepatitis C-related complications, which is more than AIDS-related deaths.
HCV is also a serious issue in the AIDS community. It's estimated that 25 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS are also coinfected with HCV.