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Importance of Hepatitis C Screening for Baby Boomers

Hepatitis C claims more than 15,000 lives each year. Most of these people fall into the baby boomer generation, people who were born between 1945 and 1965. In the U.S., an estimated 75% of people that have Hepatitis C are baby boomers. Find out why you should get screened for hepatitis C.


Hepatitis C is caused by a virus. It is normally spread from person to person by way of infected blood. Several people have been infected by blood transfusions, but there are other ways to transmit the virus. The highest number of people contracted hepatitis C between the early 1970s and the late 1980s. The reasons why are unclear, but scientists believe it may be due to the fact that donated blood was not tested for hepatitis C, HIV, and other infectious bloodborne diseases. In 1992, laboratories began strenuous screening of blood donors. 

 
Hepatitis C Remains Silent for Years


Because many do not know they have the disease until years after they contract it, experts recommend that at-risk people get a screening blood test. When left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to serious consequences for the liver, causing cirrhosis, problems with liver function, and even hepatic cancer. Most people, however, live for several decades without displaying any symptoms or of hepatitis C.


Symptoms of Hepatitis C Mimic Those of the Aging Process


As the baby boomers get older, the symptoms of hepatitis C do start to appear, and these symptoms make a person feel quite ill. As the body ages, the immune system weakens, and a person infected with hepatitis C feels sick and experiences certain signs and indications of the disease. Unfortunately, with baby boomers, some of the most common symptoms of hepatitis C can mimic those of the aging process. These include:


• Sore muscles
• Joint pain
• Fatigue
• Itchy skin
• Swelling in the legs and feet
• Abdominal pain
• Swelling in the abdomen
• Jaundice (yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin)
• Dark Urine 

Risk Factors for Hepatitis C


Early intervention saves thousands of lives each year. The only way to know if you are infected with hepatitis C is to be tested, and the test for hepatitis C is a simple blood evaluation. Experts believe that if all baby boomers would undergo testing for hepatitis C, more than 120,000 people’s lives could be saved. There are several risk factors for hepatitis C. Doctors urge people who are at-risk to get tested for the disease. These include:


• Being born between 1945 and 1965
• Blood transfusion or any other type of blood product before July 1992
• Long-term dialysis treatment
• Organ transplant before July 1992
• Babies born to mothers who have hepatitis C
• Any past use of injected illegal drugs, using infected needles
• Exposure to hepatitis C through a healthcare setting (accidental needle sticks)
• People who have HIV/AIDS
• Getting tattoos with needles that were not properly sterilized


Final Thoughts


Hepatitis C is treatable with antiviral medications, specifically telaprevir and boceprevir. These two antiviral medications can clear hepatitis C from the infected person’s bloodstream completely. Many people have sought treatment and bypassed the serious complications of this viral illness. If you are at risk for hepatitis C, talk to your doctor about having a screening test.


References


Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) (2013, April 26). Attention baby boomers: Get screened for hepatitis C. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 30, 2013, http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2013/04/130426211102.htm

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