Healthy Living: CDC urges all baby boomers to get tested for Hepatitis C
It is estimated more than 15,000 Americans die annually from Hepatitis C-related illness, and most of them are baby boomers, so the CDC is urging all baby boomers to get tested for the disease. YNN's Shazia Khan filed the following report.
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Terese Amalbert is recovering from her addiction, but the 51-year-old's history of drug use puts her at high risk for Hepatitis C. She had put off getting tested until now, after learning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just issued new Hepatitis C screening guidelines.
"I thought it was time to get tested, because if I get tested then I have choices," says Amalbert.
The CDC now urges a one-time blood test for Hepatitis C be taken by all baby boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1964, and not just those at high-risk like Amalbert.
"Hepatitis C infection is very common in people in that age group and it's often a silent, insidious infection," says Dr. Ira Jacobson of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell. "People have no idea that they have carried it often for decades, unless they are tested, and it can lead eventually to life-threatening liver disease if it is not identified and treated properly.:
It's estimated about two million baby boomers, or one in every 30 boomers, are infected with Hepatitis C, which is primarily transmitted through blood-to-blood contact.
"For years we've relied on something called risk factor based screening which relied upon an interaction between a person and a health care provider that required that the patient be identified as somebody who had, for example, engaged in high risk behavior like intravenous drug use or perhaps intranasal cocaine use, or who had been transfused with a blood product before 1992 when the blood supply became much safer," says Jacobson. "That approach has had only limited success. The questions just don't get asked. Patients themselves are not aware of those risk factors as requiring testing for Hepatitis C."
The CDC says the new guidelines can help to identify more than 800,000 additional people with Hepatitis C. New therapies can cure up to 75 percent of infections, but experts say the test should not ne delayed.
"The longer a person waits,, the fewer options they have," says Ajani Benjamin of the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center.
Most insurance plans cover Hepatitis C testing and a number of clinics offer free testing.
for more information, visit www.CDC.gov/hepatitis.