Why Baby Boomers Should Get Tested for Hepatitis C

Why Baby Boomers Should Get Tested for Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is most common among people born between 1945 and 1965.

What do Naomi Judd, Christopher Kennedy Lawford and Gregg Allman have in common? They all have hepatitis C. They, like 2 million of their fellow baby boomers, were infected with this virus that causes chronic liver disease.

Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sounding the alarm: If you're a baby boomer, get tested for hepatitis C, get treated and get on it today! People born between 1945 and 1965 are most likely to have hepatitis C—and yet most have no idea they're infected.

Hepatitis C takes its time chipping away at the liver. Decades can pass without any noticeable symptoms, which range from fatigue and easy bruising to light-colored stools. During that time an infected person may unknowingly pass the infection to others through contact with an infected blood (sharing a needle, toothbrush or razor) or sexual activity. The newly infected person may then unknowingly pass it along, too, and that cycle can repeat over and over. See why we have a problem? (By the way, your hep C risk goes up if you have had multiple sex partners, used illegal drugs or had a blood transfusion before 1992.)

Hepatitis C causes liver disease 70 to 85 percent of the time and can trigger liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. The good news is that with treatment, more than 90 percent of cases can be cured, so go to your doctor for a simple one-time blood test. It checks for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus. If you've got the insidious bug, you need to know what subtype of the infection you have so you get the most effective treatment possible. Knowledge is power—the power to protect your health and the health of those with whom you come in contact.

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