Public health officials are urging all adults born between 1945 and 1965 to get a one-time blood test for hepatitis C. Deaths from hepatitis C-related diseases have almost doubled from 1999 to 2007 and now amount to more than 15,000 U.S. deaths annually, records show. In Alabama, the Department of Public Health issued a statement last month letting residents know they are in step with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its recommendation. Dr. Mary McIntyre, assistant state health officer for disease control and prevention, stated:
Many of the people with hepatitis C in Alabama are not aware they have it, and its prevalence among baby boomers is five times greater than in other adults.
Before widespread testing of blood donations began in 1992, hepatitis C could be spread through blood transfusions. Many infected people, however, do not report a known exposure risk, health officials said. About 3 percent of baby boomers are infected with hepatitis. Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC’s director, in a news release said that folks who have not been screened should get the blood test during their next visit to the doctor.
Hepatitis C symptoms can take decades to emerge. The virus, which can gradually scar the liver and lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer, is the leading cause of liver transplants. Today, hepatitis C is commonly transmitted through sharing needles to inject drugs. Testing baby boomers can help avert major increases of liver disease and deaths – especially since new drug therapies can cure many more people than older therapies. Concerned patients should talk to their health care provider about conducting a simple blood test to determine if they have ever been infected. More information is available at adph.org/hepatitis/ and cdc.gov/hepatitis.
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