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21-05-2012 | Article

Hepatitis C test recommended for all baby boomers

Abstract

CDC – "Know More Hepatitis" website

MedWire News: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a draft statement recommending that every member of the post-World War II "baby boom" generation be tested for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

"CDC believes this approach will address the largely preventable consequences of this disease, especially in light of newly available therapies that can cure up to 75% of infections," says the statement, which was released to coincide with the first National Hepatitis Testing day.

An estimated one in 30 US citizens born from 1945 through 1965 is infected with HCV, many of whom are unaware of the fact, according to the agency. Baby boomers account for more than 75% of all US adults with HCV infection.

"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," the CDC notes.

One-time HCV testing of adults in their 40s, 50s, and 60s could identify as many as 800,000 undiagnosed infections. Assuming that all of those infected were treated and that liver cancer, cirrhosis, and other chronic sequelae of HCV could be prevented, testing could save more than 120,000 lives, the CDC estimates.

The agency also announced the availability of $ 6.5 million to expand testing for hepatitis B and C infections and promote early diagnosis, treatment, and preventive care services for those living with hepatitis viral infections.

"Funded efforts will focus on groups that are disproportionately affected by the disease, including Asian-American Pacific Islander communities who have the highest rates of hepatitis B, and injection drug users and individuals born from 1945-1965 who are most affected by hepatitis C. These efforts align with the US Department of Health and Human Services' Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, which was released in May 2011," the statement says.

The CDC will make its draft recommendations available for public comment on its website from May 22 to June 8 2012.

By Neil Osterweil