(BPT) – If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you could be one of more than 3 million baby boomers living with hepatitis C in the U.S. and not even know it. Despite only making up 27 percent of the U.S. population, baby boomers account for more than 75 percent of hepatitis C cases in the U.S.
What is hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by a virus primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person. While some people only experience a short-term infection, 70-85 percent of those with hepatitis C develop a chronic infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which can lead to liver cirrhosis (or scarring), liver cancer and even death. Hepatitis C is often referred to as a “silent epidemic,” since a person can have the condition for decades without any symptoms.
Why should boomers, born between 1945 and 1965, be tested today?
The CDC estimates boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than the rest of the population. Hepatitis C rates peaked in the 1970s and 1980s, when boomers may have been exposed to infected blood before certain safety precautions were adopted for medical procedures, body piercings and tattoos.
Only 14 percent of baby boomers report having been screened for hepatitis C, which is why the CDC recommends all boomers speak with their healthcare providers and request to be tested for hepatitis C.
Have YOU been tested?
The only way to know if someone has the virus is through a one-time blood test, yet testing among boomers remains low. Quest Diagnostics, a leading diagnostics company, has more than 2,200 Patient Services Centers with labs offering hepatitis C testing for boomers. Quest Diagnostics patient Robin Roth was diagnosed with hepatitis C following a routine doctor’s visit that changed her life.
Though she was symptomless, Robin asked to be screened for hepatitis C and tested positive for the virus. When her doctor explained the virus may have impacted her liver health, Robin asked for a biopsy, which confirmed she had liver cirrhosis. After receiving treatment for nearly a year, she became virus-free and cleared her cirrhosis.
Watch Robin’s journey from diagnosis to recovery to learn more.
Is there a cure for hepatitis C?
Yes, there are new and successful treatments that can cure the virus and prevent liver damage, cirrhosis and liver disease. The biggest barrier to treatment is diagnosis, given the lack of obvious symptoms. This barrier has been a contributing factor to half the cases of liver cancer in the U.S., which increased by 72 percent from 2003 to 2012.
For more information about hepatitis C and to assess your risk factors, visit KnowAboutHepC.com.