Baby Boomers face another threat to their health beside the demise of Medicare. One in 33, according to the most recent Center for Disease Control data, is living with Hepatitis C and does not know it. Hepatitis C is a silent disease that can take a few decades to manifest its symptoms. This is why many who are suffering from the disease do not know it. Particularly at risk are for those born between 1945 and 1965.
Because the disease is blood borne, baby boomers who have never used or shared needles do not consider themselves at risk. But the medical profession is trying alert the public that this disease could be the result of a one time youthful experiment long since forgotten. Or it could be present as a result of a blood transfusion.
Before 1992, the nation’s blood supply was not screened. If you happened to have had a transfusion before that time, it is possible the blood you received was contaminated, as in the case of Arthur Ashe. Ashe died of HIV, not Hepatitis C, but it resulted from a blood transfusion. Then consider that there were 15,000 deaths in 2007 related to Hepatitis C, as to opposed 13,000 deaths caused by the AIDS virus and the impact becomes more clear.
Some people are unable to remember exactly what happened 20 years ago, thus the Federal Government has begun discussions about instituting organized testing of this demographic as a preventative measure with the possibility of saving 82,000 lives.
Stanford University confirmed the CDC’s conclusions and went a step further. They determined that the new triple therapy is “.. . cheaper than a transplant costing well over $100,000.” The stated, “not everyone with hepatitis C will go on to suffer serious liver damage. For those with mild disease, … some gene testing to predict who might really need the costlier triple therapy rather than the older drugs would be a good next step.”
There are now two new drugs that offer more hope. Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ teleprevir and Merck’s boceprevir are pricey but clinical trials indicate they cut treatment times over the drugs that are currently on the market and they promise improved results.
Doctors have begun talking to baby boomers about this when they come in on separate concerns. Some states have launched programs targeting boomers. Anyone affected by the disease or interested in further education or support are encouraged to contact the Hep C connection.
Photo from Ting Ting Huang via flickr