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CDC beckons all baby boomers to get tested for hepatitis C

Those well-versed in the dynamic of the nuclear family were dealt a bombshell last week -- a blow actually made better by bleeding, surprisingly enough.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) blasted baby boomers with urgent advice August 16, counseling the cradle-rocking generation to opt for a one-time blood test meant to detect the hepatitis C virus, which the organization purports is growing in prominence amongst the demographic. 

"Three-quarters of all hepatitis C infections and three-quarters of hepatitis C deaths occur in baby boomers," CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, said during a conference call. "Baby boomers are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C than other adult Americans."

Healthcare guidelines already dictate that individuals at high risk for hepatitis C be tested past their prime; with the CDC sanction, boomers became the new blip atop that perilous metrics.

"While we continue to recommend testing for high-risk individuals, baby boomers are now added to the list," Frieden continued.

According to Frieden and the CDC, the mandate could help identify at least 800,000 more Americans carrying hepatitis C. And the earlier the virus is detected, the more protected the infected will be. If a patient is confirmed with C-branded hepatitis, a physician can avoid prescribing certain medications that affect the liver, ward the inflicted off of alcohol and vaccinate against Hepatitis A and B before its too late.

"Hepatitis C can live for decades in the body, slowly destroying the liver and causing no symptoms," John Ward, MD, director of the division of viral hepatitis at the National Center for HIV/ AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention in Atlanta, told WebMD. "The earlier the treatment is provided, the more effective it can be at reducing risk for liver damage and liver cancer."

Some physicians are already enthused about the recommendations. Eugene R. Schiff, MD, director of the Schiff Center for Liver Diseases at the University of Miami School of Medicine and vice president of the Chronic Liver Disease Foundation, attributed his support to the tandem effect CDC recommendations tend to have on the industry, where once suggestions are handed down, medications soon arise to parallel the plea.  

"It will be test and treat like with HIV," Schiff told WebMD.

Baby boomers join these other at-risk figures:

  • Those with a history of blood transfusion or organ transplants
  • Patients undergoing long-term dialysis treatment
  • People potentially exposed to the virus due to an outbreak in a health care setting
  • Those infected with HIV or the AIDS virus
  • Children born to mothers with the virus
  • Tattooed and pierced patients
  • Injection drug users

Find more on the recommendations here, in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This advice comes as part of the organization’s “No More Hepatitis” campaign.

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