Attention baby boomers: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants you tested for the hepatitis C virus. In their latest weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report, the CDC advised that everyone born from 1945 to 1965 be tested since they are 5 times more likely than other adults to carry the hepatitis C virus. Even though 1 in 30 people within this group are infected, most of them don’t know it and thousands die each year of cirrhosis and liver cancer. These strong and targeted recommendations were issued in light of the fact that the number of Americans dying from hepatitis C-related disease almost doubled from 1999 to 2007. Another reason is that several drugs went on the market last year that promise to cure many more people than previously possible and more are slated to be released. Although a full course of treatment is costly, research shows that it’s cheaper to pay for treatment that eliminates the virus than to pay for the care of patients who get sick.
Hepatitis C is most commonly spread through sharing needles used to inject drugs, but was also spread through blood transfusions before widespread screening of blood donations began in 1992. Some experts say tattoos, piercings, sexual transmission, shared razor blades and toothbrushes, manicures and sniffed cocaine may have also caused the virus to spread. The virus can gradually scar the liver and lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer, and is the leading cause of liver transplant. It can trigger damage in other parts of the body, as well. Most cases are found after liver cancer has been diagnosed or other irreparable damage has been done to the liver usually requiring a transplant. Right now, more than 15,000 Americans die each year from hepatitis C-related illnesses and the number continues to grow. The CDC’s hope that this focused push for testing will enable them to reduce the numbers of deaths cause by the disease.
LIAAC offers free and confidential hepatitis C rapid testing through our Project Reach. Through this program we offer risk reduction education and assessment, as well as referrals to primary health care treatment and community based services. For more information, call our hotline at 1-877-865-4222, or to find out where we will be offering testing, visit the events section of our Facebook page.