The Center for Disease Control announced that all baby boomers get a one-time blood test for the hepatitis C virus. In a public announcement, the CDC stated:
All U.S. baby boomers should get a one-time test for the hepatitis C virus, according to final recommendations published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in 30 baby boomers – the generation born from 1945 through 1965 – has been infected with hepatitis C, and most don’t know it. Hepatitis C causes serious liver diseases, including liver cancer (the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related deaths) and is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.
The Associated Press reports that around 15,000 Americans die every year from hepatitis C-related illnesses. It sometimes takes decades for symptoms of the virus to appear in people carrying it. It can be spread through sharing of needles but health professionals note that blood transfusions before 1992 carried the possible threat of hepatitis C because screening for the virus only began after that year.
The virus especially affects the liver and its functions. The infection can eventually cause liver cancer and deep scarring of the liver tissues. Although people that have shared syringes because of drug use are typically at high risk, professionals note that the virus may have been contracted through something as simple as sharing a toothbrush.
So, why are baby boomers the primary concern of the CDC suggestion? According to the study results, this group of adults are five times more likely to be infected. Only about 3 percent of this population tests positive for the virus but doctors lament how many people come to them after the infection has already caused serious damage. Many of those people already face risks of cancer or the need for a liver transplant.
The announcement also reflects an increasing number of people dying from infections between 1999 and 2007, with numbers almost doubling in those years.
A recent hepatitis C scare also rocked the nation when a medical technician was recently caught reusing syringes and spreading hepatitis C to patients in various medical facilities. Dozens of people were possibly affected by the actions of David Kwiatkowski, who worked at more than one medical facility over the course of four or five years.
The dangerous threats of the lingering infection remain particularly pertinent. The CDC’s announcement comes with an underlying ray of hope. They estimate that around 800,000 additional cases could be detected under this new guideline and that 75 percent of those cases can be cured with modern therapies.
Without the testing, the CDC warns that the rate of infections could continue to grow in the United States and threaten more lives with liver cancer and failure.
Photo Credit: GrahamColm
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