CDC considering recommending Hepatitis C test for boomers
A bus promoting testing for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C drives through Leicester Square in London on May 18, 2009.
May 18th, 2012
01:34 PM ET

CDC considering recommending Hepatitis C test for boomers

It's a "silent epidemic," an "unrecognized health crisis," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it's affecting 2.1 million baby boomers in the United States.

The CDC announced Friday that it is considering recommending Hepatitis C testing for everyone born between 1945 and 1965. Currently the CDC recommends this testing only for those who are at-risk - people who participated in intravenous drug use or had a blood transfusion before 1992, when screening was implemented.

But such events probably happened decades ago for this population, who may not recall the exposures that place them at risk, says Dr. John Ward, director of the division of viral hepatitis at the CDC.  And those that do remember may not be offering up such information to their primary care physicians.

“I’m not sure everybody is going to acknowledge to their doctors that they used drugs in their 20s," says Dr. Michael Ryan, co-chair of the American Gastroenterological Association's I.D. Hep C awareness campaign.

The timing of the CDC's announcement coincides with Hepatitis Awareness Month. Saturday, May 19, will mark the first national Hepatitis Testing Day. It's all part of the organization's national education campaign, "Know More Hepatitis."

Hepatitis literally means "inflammation of the liver," according to the CDC's website.  It's caused by viral infections, the most common being Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.  Vaccines are available for Hepatitis A and B, but a Hepatitis C vaccine remains elusive, although research is underway.

Hepatitis is usually spread through blood. Transmission through sexual content can happen but the risk is low, Ward says.

In 2007, approximately 17,000 new Hepatitis C virus infections were diagnosed in the United States. The CDC estimates that 3.2 million Americans have chronic Hepatitis C and more than 75% don't know it because they aren't experiencing any symptoms.  Baby boomers represent the majority of cases - more than 75%, and are five times more likely to be infected than other adults.

The American Gastroenterological Association conducted a survey of 1,000 baby boomers this year. Seventy-four percent had never been tested or were unsure if they had been tested. Eighty percent did not consider themselves at any risk for having the disease.

"The survey was actually a little bit frightening," Ryan said. Many thought hepatitis C affected the kidneys, or that the younger generation was more at-risk.

Approximately 20% of people with Hepatitis C will never develop symptoms and will conquer the disease without treatment. The rest can be treated with antiviral medications intended to clear the virus from the body, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason patients need liver transplants in the U.S., according to the CDC. Approximately 15,000 people die every year from related diseases.

CDC research suggests implementing this one-time test could help identify an additional 800,000 people living with the disease, and prevent 120,000 deaths.

"It's causing more deaths than AIDS, the costs are expected to quadruple and cure rates are at 80 to 90%," Ryan says. "[This recommendation] just kind of makes sense."

Before the CDC makes their final recommendation later, they are soliciting input from others experts and the public, which will be factored in to their decision.

soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. J.C.

    Don't share needles with your druggie friends and you won't get Hep C or "the hiv". What about this concept is so hard to understand?

    May 18, 2012 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dee

      you are a moron. Blood transfusions prior to the nineties is also to blame.

      May 18, 2012 at 15:17 | Report abuse |
    • sabolila

      you're grossly misinformed or can't read. blood transfusions prior to the '90's were part of the problem....ask my brother who received a blood transfusion in S Carolina in 1989. he wasn't a drug user, and didn't engage in any other activity that you would probably label "he got what he deserved". he was in an accident.

      May 18, 2012 at 15:26 | Report abuse |
    • yupyouraredumb

      J.C.: How about doing some research before opening up your big mouth and expressing a dumb opinion that shouldn't be protected under the 1st amendment.

      May 18, 2012 at 19:05 | Report abuse |
    • harvey j

      I have Hep C and never used a needle or had a transfusion. It can be transmitted by any blood to blood contact–sharing toothbrush, razors, having an exposed cut. I probably got it from work when we had had needle marking guns to attach price tags to merchandise and were shared by everyone. Your ignorance and lake of empathy for people with a life threatening disease is appalling.

      May 18, 2012 at 23:39 | Report abuse |
    • Byrd

      I got my Hep C on the third day of Marine Corps boot camp for the jet injector guns they used to give 75 of us an entire series of inoculations. It's the same devise they used to spread AIDS all over Africa, yet the VA and DoD refuse to admit any responsibility.

      Semper Fi, jerkwad.

      May 21, 2012 at 07:57 | Report abuse |
    • kevinaaa

      You people are stupid the article had said both of them were the main causes, so he is right to. just dont try to cover up your drug happits

      May 21, 2012 at 08:30 | Report abuse |
    • sumday

      apparently you are very simple minded or just stupid. You can get it from sharing razor blades, toothbrushes, coming in contact with blood through a car accident, a fist fight, basically anywhere you are exposed to blood. You might want to think it's just a druggie thing- that's like saying aids is just a gay thing- but that is completely wrong. I've never done a needle drug in my life and still got Hep-C and the only thing I can trace it to is the "air shots" I got while I was in the army- we would all walk down a line as the medic would use basically an air gun to shot the vaccination right into the skin, if you flinched it could and did leave blood. I never saw the medic wiping the end of that after each vaccine so that is where I think I got it from- you know severing our country and all, but I'm one of the lucky 20% where my body cleared it by itself. While I don't have a viral count of it, it still shows up on blood tests as being exposed to it. It is also people like you that scary me the most with your ignorance. Hep C takes decades to affect the liver people like you will never get tested bc you think it's a druggie thing. you could have it, not know it, and be exposing everyone around you to it bc you think you are not at risk for it. I myself only found out bc it showed up on test when I was trying to donate blood.

      May 21, 2012 at 10:25 | Report abuse |
    • Anna

      I got Hep C as an infant. I was born two months early and needed numerous blood transfusions. Back in 1985, they didn't have the means to screen the blood supply for viruses like Hep C and HIV. I have never used IV drugs or even had the slightest desire to do so. I do not sleep around. I don't even have a tattoo. But I have to put up with ignorant remarks from people like you all the time, for something that I most certainly did not bring on myself. Also, the treatment for Hep C is six months to a year of chemotherapy, and the cure rate at BEST is eighty percent (which is a very recent improvement over the previous cure rate of fifty percent). No matter how you got it, no one deserves it.

      May 21, 2012 at 21:17 | Report abuse |
    • Name*

      Blood transfusion gave me hep c in 1983 just now found out I am devastated over this

      December 13, 2014 at 12:37 | Report abuse |
  2. JCL

    I was hep c positive in a bad way for 18 years and the multiple treatments with interferon was HeLL. I have been Hep neg for over a year Now, by the grace of God ! surgery in 87 J.C.

    May 18, 2012 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Thomas c. Brown, Jr.

      The is a new 100 % cure for hep C. Go to http://www.HepC-cured.org. Please pass on !!!

      November 7, 2013 at 11:13 | Report abuse |
  3. John

    There may not be a vaccine for the virus, but at least you can give people hope. Hep C can be cured, there is treatment. It is long and the road is rough, I have a friend who went through it and she is virus free. This article is all doom and gloom.

    May 18, 2012 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Cure rates, noted in the article as between 80 and 90 percent, are all "doom and gloom"???

      May 18, 2012 at 18:39 | Report abuse |
  4. Oh how lovely

    Many of my friends and family have hep c. It's an awful disease as is HIV. My mom contacted hep c during a blood transfusion after she gave birth to me and almost died from lack of blood. We lived in Reno Nv. and years ago they paid people to give blood. Many junkies and homeless needed money so they sold their blood. It's much better now that they have better screening practices and no longer pay people for their blood. At least in most states.

    May 18, 2012 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • I know what you mean

      I contracted it through a blood trasnfusion after I had major cancer surgery and this disease is hell! I tried the treatments and I could not tolerate it,I do not drink alcohol and I notice that caffeine will trigger the inflamation which makes me so sick, I can't even get out of bed for a week! I have not, thank God had an attack in over a yr since I discovered that caffeine was the cause of most of my attacks. I also get tired easily, but I also have RA so I am in constant pain and it sucks! I wish I could at least sue the hospital where I had the transfusion, but I looked it into that and up until 1992 as the article states, hospitals or blood banks did not test for Hep C and I had the transfusion in 1983. I di thank the Lord that my liver numbers have been good, I am not on a transplant list as of yet and I hope I never have to go that route despite the fact that then I would have a healthy liver. I knew a guy though that went through two transplants and the last one failed and he died. SO I know how you feel my heart goes out to you.

      May 18, 2012 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
  5. LBridge

    I have a co-worker whose sister just had a liver transplant because of Hep C which was contracted through a blood transfusion she had 10-11 years ago. When she first began feeling ill about 3-4 years ago, she dismissed some of her symptoms and some doctors came up with all kinds of diagnosis and reasons why she wasn't feeling well. It wasn't until recently that she found out what her problem truly was and by that time her liver was done and her systems began shutting down (kidneys). I asked my co-worker "how did her doctors not know she could have contracted Hep C??" She told me that 10 years ago, blood given to persons who underwent transfusions were tested for HIV/AIDS and other diseases but NOT Hep C!! I was floored! She said that her sister was told that there are hundreds, even thousands of people who have had transfusions during the time when blood donations were NOT tested for Hep C – meaning A LOT of people could be infected and not know.

    If you know someone who has had a blood transfusion 10+ years ago, let them know that they should be tested right away!

    May 18, 2012 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve - Dallas

      Same thing with my dad, who got Hep C from a blood transfusion during heart surgery in the mid 80's.

      May 18, 2012 at 18:52 | Report abuse |
  6. Tommy Lee

    I got Hep C from Pammy......I am sooooo mad a her!

    May 18, 2012 at 17:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kayla

      You need to look in the mirror at the person who decided to sleep with anyone and everyone and not blame them, you had a choice and you were irresponsible! If your health matters so much to you then check people out before you sleep with them. Grow up!!!

      May 18, 2012 at 23:13 | Report abuse |
    • bobby

      well tommy, better to get iy doing pam than during a blood transfusion bro !!!

      May 18, 2012 at 23:41 | Report abuse |
    • Anna

      There is actually no conclusive proof that Hep C is transmitted sexually. Studies show about a three percent transmission rate between couples–however, there is no way to tell if this is because they were intimate sexually or because they shared needles or razors (or even toothbrushes). The only proven way to transmit Hep C is via direct blood to blood contact. Even the risk of transmitting Hep C from a mother to an infant is only five percent. Pam and Tommy Lee's official stance on this is that they got a tattoo with the same needle and that TL did not tell Pam he had Hep C....

      May 21, 2012 at 21:24 | Report abuse |
  7. Anthony Harris

    "CDC research suggests implementing this one-time test could help identify an additional 800,000 people living with the disease, and prevent 120,000 deaths." In regards to this excerpt from the article, it doesn't make any sense that the CDC would attempt to find 800,000 people with the viral infection, but then turn around and estimate a total of 120,000 deaths could be prevented. I understand that the vaccine for this infection is "elusive" but what is so wrong with the other 680,000 people whom the CDC estimates would have this infection if this one-time test was administered??

    May 18, 2012 at 17:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anna

      Anthony the reason the number isn't 800,000 lives saved is because Hep C does not kill everyone who has it. The estimate is accounting for this fact. Most people who have the disease will actually not die from it, however there is no way to tell when and how Hep C will progress to a more serious stage of the disease.

      May 21, 2012 at 21:28 | Report abuse |
  8. cole

    Anthony, I suspect its because they don't have health insurance.

    May 18, 2012 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. thinquer

    Remember when they used to criticize Jehovah's Witnesses for not taking blood transfusions? (They only take non-blood transfusions.) How did they know?

    May 18, 2012 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. EM

    Contracted HCV (hep c) through blood transfusions in 1980. Just finishing treatment with the triple therapy now available, pegalated interferon, Ribovirin, and Incivek. Difficult but it will save my life without a transplant! Transplants are very,very difficult to get and very expensive with years to follow with complications and expensive anti rejection drugs. This new triple therapy can be funded through the drug company, if you qualify and there are non profit agencies to help with deductibles. My Regence Blue Shield would not cover the new protease inhibitor drug Incivek! These new drugs just came out last spring. There is hope now, keep asking questions! So many Drs. dont know about the new treatments and don't have a clue how to administer them with follow proper follow up care. Use the Internet to inform yourself by checking out Vertex and Merck drug companies. Prayers for all of you with HCV!

    May 18, 2012 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. LisaG

    My husband discovered he had Hep C ten years ago when he diagnosed with high cholesterol, the doctor put him on the cholesterol medication and then did liver function tests that came back abnormal. (He'd had a blood transfusion when he was in his late teens.) He unfortunately has Type 1, which is the most resistant to treatment. After 50 weeks of treatment hell, his viral load was normal. Less than a month later, it was back full force. He was in the 50% of Type 1, Hep C that is not cured by treatment. He already has cirrhosis and will likely develop liver cancer, he is 60 years old and has multiple health issues and is not a good candidate for transplant. Hep C is a horrible disease and noone deserves to be inflicted with it.

    May 18, 2012 at 20:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ripcity

      Hopefully he has talked to his doctors again. New drugs available (came out a year ago) for GT1 are options for never treated patients and relapsers (like your husband). As you say, he has multiple medical problems so may be a bad candidate for treatment, but in compensated cirrhotics (not sure if he is or not from your post ... compensated means he has no complications of his cirrhosis and his labs look good) it is still an option. The cure rates with triple therapy are similar to the rates for other genotypes now.

      May 18, 2012 at 20:19 | Report abuse |
  12. Kayla

    If EVERYONE would get vaccinated for things like they were supposed to, there would be very little problem with having these kinds of diseases.

    May 18, 2012 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sharp

      Read the article. NO VACCINE for Hep C.

      May 18, 2012 at 23:57 | Report abuse |
  13. Ruby

    I have been a nurse for 32 years. I have accidently been stuck by dirty needles 3 times in my career. I now have Hep C. Very few people know, due to the stigma that goes with this disease. I will probably die with Hep C, all because I chose the health care field, so I can take care of uncaring jack asses, like the ones that have presented themselves in this soundoff.

    May 19, 2012 at 00:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. m@yahoo.com

    ok to the idiot who posted about it being an std, the article clearly explains that it is transferred through blood. and there are rare occasions it does get transferred through sexual intercourse but that means someone was on their period or some type of bleeding was involved. so stfu, obviously your reading composition is inadequate. yes im not abiding by proper grammar and punctuation, so go screw yourself i dont feel like typing something relative to proper writing. this is a comment not a college course on grammar and punctuation.

    May 19, 2012 at 01:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Oh how lovely

    Yeah WOW first off hep c is highly contagious. It is not only contacted sexually. People writing nasty comments about getting partners checked out are ignorant. Wait wait before we have intercourse may I please see your lab work? Not to mention you can also test negative for hiv for many years and still have the disease. Talk about being judgemental and uninformed. People who write uneducated comments should keep their petty bs to themselves.

    May 19, 2012 at 02:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Oh how lovely

    And another thing there is NO vaccine for hep c! Not only that people who are fully vaccinated can STILL contract the disease for which they are vaccinated for. Ignorant Ignorant Ignorant! Too bad there isn't a vaccine for ignorance.

    May 19, 2012 at 02:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Caroline

    Going thru multiple tests right now. High liver enzyme count,inflamed liver,pain etc and generally feelin lousy. Doc thought i had contracted shingles,waitin on rash appearing. See him monday for more blood results. I had 2 transfusions in 82, 1 in 83 and another in 89. Will be bringing up this topic on monday. Wish me luck

    May 19, 2012 at 08:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RLGESQ1

      My besr to you.

      May 21, 2012 at 09:16 | Report abuse |
    • RLGESQ1


      May 21, 2012 at 09:16 | Report abuse |
    • Anna

      Fingers crossed for you. Hopefully negative but if not–google HCV Support. Wonderful community of people with lots of knowledge about the disease.

      May 21, 2012 at 21:32 | Report abuse |
  18. bitsofpisces

    When I was 8 in 1961 I almost bleed to death during a routine surgery, at 19 got mono and had blood tests for months and then they told me I had hep which supposedly was cured (they did not know about hep c in the early 70s.. Spent the next 45 years living my life, no major health problems, rarely drank because it made me ill. Five years ago I started having pains in my side and doctor said it was just stress. Moved to another state and my new doctor listened to my symptoms and had testing done for hep c. My viral load was in the millions! Now I am going through the new 3 drug treatment (1/2 way done) viral load is zero and there is great hope of full cure. I actually had a high chance of watching my grandson grow up. I am not a drug user or drinker (though medical marijuana has been a life saver during treatment). The treatment has been a rough road but well worth it. If you are 45 or older, GET TESTED! Many of our vietnam era personnel are also dying from this disease.

    May 19, 2012 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Monkey

    Peginterferon and ribavirin saved my husband's life.
    He got hep C from a transfusion of factor as a teen in the late 1980s. Factor is a blood product, given to hemophiliacs to help their blood clot. In the last twenty years, many hemophiliacs have been diagnosed with hep C. My husband's cousin, also a hemophiliac, recently died from hep C.
    If you know anyone with any bleeding disorder (factor 8, 9, 10 deficiency, or Von Willebrand), and they've had any blood product transfusion prior to 1995, recommend they get tested. Hep C is curable in many cases. The sooner you're diagnosed, the better chance you have. For the patient, treatment is very difficult, and there are side effects that can last for months afterwards. Its also hard on spouses, partners, and family. My husband's treatment was 48 weeks. With the addition of a third drug, treatment can be 24 weeks.
    My husband's quality of life has improved, as has his outlook. Our relationship is stronger. Treatment of hep C is hell, but it is worth it.

    May 19, 2012 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Matt

    I believe I contracted Hep C through a blood transfusion when I was 6 months old. (1975). I found out I had the disease when I was 28, and went through the Interferon treatment. It was a difficult treatment that lasted a year. BTW, I never used needles or engaged in risky behavior. I have been Virus free for 6 years.

    May 21, 2012 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Matt

      Also ..

      I had type 1 the most resistant, and cleared it. My Wife and daughter didn't contract the disease.

      May 21, 2012 at 09:36 | Report abuse |
  21. MARS

    Author's error in 7th paragraph, which is only one sentence long:
    "Transmission through sexual CONTENT can happen but the risk is low."
    It should be "contact."
    It's so funny when people not only spell things wrong, but even funnier when they can't even use the correct word.
    BTW, I'm not a total grammar brat, but people who get paid to write the article (and their editors) should proof read it better. I'm a nurse, this disease is horrible. I have 2 group home patients who have Hep C. They did IV drugs when their mental illness and alcoholism "helped" them make bad choices. My liver was blocked years ago by a gall stone and my liver enzymes were 40 times too high. I got the pleasure of ER nurses screaming in my face, asking me how many drugs did I do and how much did I drink. The answer was none to both. A few years after that one of my grandmas died of liver cancer. I'm sorry to all of you who got this awful Hep C getting blood transfusions and from vaccine guns 🙁

    July 20, 2012 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Mike

    Just do it. I woke up in the hospital and found out I had it. No I am in remission after two treatments of 48 weeks at a pop. No longer drink but feel good about it. It feels good not to be tired all the time having urine not the color of tea or cola and regular colored stools. It was one of the wisest decisions I've ever made.

    July 21, 2012 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Tattoo Machines & Equipment

    I woke up in the hospital and found out I had it......... I have 2 group home patients who have Hep C

    September 29, 2012 at 02:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Tattoo Machines & Equipment

    I feels good not to be tired all the time having urine not the color of tea or cola and regular colored stools. It was one of the wisest decisions I've ever made.

    September 29, 2012 at 02:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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    September 29, 2012 at 02:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Neva Muysenberg

    The virus persists in the liver in about 85% of those infected. This persistent infection can be treated with medication: the standard therapy is a combination of peginterferon and ribavirin, with either boceprevir or telaprevir added in some cases. Overall, 50–80% of people treated are cured...*;'

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    June 22, 2013 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
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