|June 2012 · Vol. 24, No. 6
CDC Says: Test all Baby Boomers once for Hepatitis C
One-time testing could identify more than 800,000 additional people with hepatitis C virus
One in 30 US adults born between 1945 and 1965—more than 2 million baby boomers—are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). These baby boomers account for more than 75% of all American adults living with HCV. The problem is most adults with HCV don’t know they have it.
Since HCV infection may not have noticeable symptoms for years, the virus can cause damage to the liver, and lead to liver cancer (the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States), before it is ever diagnosed. Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines call for testing only individuals with certain known risk factors for HCV infection, including:
anyone who has ever injected illegal drugs
recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants before July 1992, or clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
patients who have ever received long-term hemodialysis treatment
persons with known exposures to hepatitis C, such as:
people living with HIV
people with signs or symptoms of liver disease (eg, abnormal liver enzyme tests)
children born to mothers who have hepatitis C.
According to the CDC, however, studies find that many baby boomers do not perceive themselves to be at risk for HCV and are not being tested. Therefore, the CDC has issued draft guidelines proposing that all US baby boomers get a one-time blood test for HCV, with those who test positive being referred for treatment and for alcohol use screening.
This one-time testing could identify more than 800,000 additional people with HCV, prevent the costly consequences of liver cancer and other chronic liver diseases, and save more than 120,000 lives, the CDC estimates.
More than 15,000 Americans, most of them baby boomers, die each year from hepatitis C-related illness, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, and deaths have been increasing steadily for over a decade and are projected to grow significantly in coming years. New therapies are available, however, that can cure up to 75% of infections.
“With increasingly effective treatments now available, we can prevent tens of thousands of deaths from hepatitis C,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH.
The CDC’s draft recommendations will be available at www.regulations.gov, docket number CDC-2012-0005, for a public comment period through June 8, 2012.
Following the public comment period, CDC will review and consider all input received, and issue final recommendations later in the year.
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1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis C: proposed expansion of testing recommendations, 2012 – CDC Fact Sheet. http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/HCV-TestingFactSheetNoEmbargo508.pdf. Accessed May 30, 2012.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC announces first ever national hepatitis testing day and proposes that all baby boomers be tested once for Hepatitis C [press release]. http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/HepTestingRecsPressRelease2012.html. Accessed May 30, 2012.
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