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Who is at risk for hepatitis C (HCV)?

Neal E. Rakov, MD
Gastroenterology
Risk of exposure to hepatitis C is higher for those who have shared needles used for injecting drugs or applying tattoos, or for those who underwent blood transfusions before widespread screening was instituted, because the hepatitis C virus is carried by blood contact. Celebrities who have spoken out about their struggles with hepatitis C include several rock stars (Steven Tyler and Gregg Allman), actors (Pamela Anderson and Christopher Kennedy Lawford), and singer Natalie Cole, who died of heart failure seven years after going public with her battle against the disease.

Hepatitis C potentially affects 75% of the baby boomer generation. Moreover, 70% to 80% of those infected with acute hepatitis C do not have symptoms. Most of those infected don’t know they have it. Baby boomers are at greater risk for hepatitis C due to the lack of widespread screening of the blood supply and blood products prior to the early 1990s and to the popularity of recreational drug use through injections in the 1960s and 1970s.
 
Hepatitis C can affect anyone, but high risk groups include people who use injectable drugs and share needles, 
children born to mothers with hepatitis C, people who had a blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to July 1992, and hemophiliacs who used blood products prior to 1987. Hepatitis C can also be transmitted sexually if there is exposure to blood during sex; the risk is considered higher for people who have many sexual partners. Baby boomers (those born between 1945 and 1965) are considered at higher risk, as hepatitis C was more common in the 1970s and 1980s than it is currently.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.