CDC Recommends All Baby Boomers Be Tested for Hepatitis C

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • The CDC has issued a press release urging all baby boomers––those born between 1945 and 1965––to get a one-time blood test for the hepatitis C virus. They estimate that one in 30 baby boomers has been infected with hepatitis C but most don’t know it yet. It's important to find the infection as soon as possible because left untreated, hepatitis C can cause serious liver diseases, including cirrhosis and liver cancer (the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related deaths). It is also the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.


    According to the CDC, more than 2 million U.S. baby boomers are infected with hepatitis C––accounting for more than 75% of all American adults living with the virus. Studies show that many baby boomers were infected with the virus decades ago, do not perceive themselves to be at risk, and have never been screened.

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    More than 15,000 Americans, most of them baby boomers, die each year from hepatitis C-related illness, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hepatitis C-related deaths have been increasing steadily for over a decade and are projected to grow significantly in coming years.


    The good news is there are newly available therapies that can cure up to 75% of hepatitis C infections. But they need to be caught before the liver is severely damaged. Since there are often few, if any, symptoms of hepatitis C until liver damage has already occurred, it is important to get that one-time blood test as soon as possible.


    “A one-time blood test for hepatitis C should be on every baby boomer’s medical checklist,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “The new recommendations can protect the health of an entire generation of Americans and save thousands of lives.”


    Hepatitis C and Chronic Pain


    You may be wondering why I'm talking about hepatitis C on a chronic pain site. It's because some of the symptoms of chronic hepatitis C may be missed because they are very similar to chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, ME/CFS and rheumatoid arthritis.


    A few people seem to be able to clear the hepatitis C virus out of their systems within a few months of being infected, however, for about 80% of people who are infected the illness becomes chronic. The problem is most people with chronic hepatitis C do not have any symptoms for many years––even several decades. And when symptoms do begin to show up, they're often mild and resemble a number of other conditions.


    Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis C


    The most common symptoms of chronic hepatitis C include:

    • Fatigue

    • Muscle and joint pain

    • Abdominal pain in upper right quadrant (see illustration of liver)

    • Loss of appetite

    Additional symptoms related to liver cirrhosis that may develop include:

    • Very dark yellow to coffee-colored urine

    • Clay-colored stools

    • Increased tendency to bruise or bleed

    • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and/or eyes)


    Hepatitis C Transmission and Risk


    Hepatitis C is a blood-borne pathogen, meaning it is transmitted when the blood of a person who is infected with hepatitis C enters the body of someone who is not infected. The risk of transmission from sexual contact is believed to be very low for monogamous heterosexual partners, but increases for those who have multiple sex partners, have a sexually transmitted disease, engage in rough sex, or are infected with HIV.


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    People who have increased risk for hepatitis C includes:

    • Current injection drug users (currently the most common way Hepatitis C virus is spread in the United States)

    • Past injection drug users, including those who injected only one time or many years ago

    • Recipients of donated blood, blood products, and organs (particularly before 1992 when blood screening became available)

    • People who received a blood product for clotting problems made before 1987

    • Hemodialysis patients or persons who spent many years on dialysis for kidney failure

    • People who received body piercing or tattoos done with non-sterile instruments

    • People with known exposures to the Hepatitis C virus, such as

      • Health care workers injured by needlesticks

      • Recipients of blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for the Hepatitis C virus

    • HIV-infected persons

    • Children born to mothers infected with the Hepatitis C virus


    Less common risks include:

    • Having sexual contact with a person who is infected with the Hepatitis C virus

    • Sharing personal care items, such as razors or toothbrushes, that may have come in contact with the blood of an infected person


    Should You Be Tested?


    Since hepatitis C seems to be so much more prevalent among baby boomers, if you are currently between the ages of 47 – 67, the CDC highly recommends that you receive a one-time blood test for hepatitis C. For those in other age groups, if you fit any of the increased-risk categories listed above, it would also be a good idea to be tested.


    For more information about hepatitis C, see: Hepatitis C FAQs for the Public




    CDC Now Recommends All Baby Boomers Receive One-Time Hepatitis C Test.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Press Release. August 16, 2012.

    Hepatitis C FAQs for the Public.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 16, 2012.


Published On: August 30, 2012