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A blog by your local public health experts

 

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Why Baby Boomers Are 5x More Likely to Have Hepatitis C

Viral Hepatitis Coordinator Kim Desmarais
by Kim Desmarais05/30/2018 4:33 p.m.
Updated: 05/30/2018

“Why should I get tested for hepatitis C? I’ve never done drugs.” This is what many Baby Boomers ask, and it’s a good question. The risk has more to do with when Baby Boomers were born and the lack of knowledge about hepatitis C at the time. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended anyone born from 1945-1965 should get tested once for hepatitis C.

See the latest testing results from the hepatitis C outbreak at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup.

National surveys and blood sampling show about 75% of all people who have hepatitis C were born between 1945-1965. Many people who have hepatitis C do not know it, so a universal test for this age group will identify many more people who are infected. Knowing your hepatitis C status is very important. If you do have hepatitis C, you can be treated and cured of the disease.

Why should Baby Boomers get tested?

The rates of hepatitis C in the United States were the highest in the 1970s and 1980s. This is when many Baby Boomers became infected. Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood. The national blood supply was not tested for hepatitis C prior to 1992, so in the past, it was possible to get hepatitis C from blood transfusions. Plus, the healthcare field hasn’t always used current universal precautions to prevent the spread of blood borne diseases.

We now know several viruses spread through blood, so people are more careful with their personal care items. In the past, people didn’t know sharing razors, nail clippers or toothbrushes could spread disease.

We also tend to forget things from our past, especially if the event occurred only once or was decades ago. Someone may have experimented, just once, and forgotten about it. Sharing needles or drug equipment, even just one time, can spread hepatitis C.

If I feel fine, why does it matter?

Hepatitis C is often called a silent disease because it can damage the liver without any obvious symptoms. The damage can result in scarring (cirrhosis), liver cancer, and sometimes death. The CDC reports hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer and top reason for liver transplants.

A Baby Boomer infected in the 1970s or 1980s has been living with hepatitis C for 30 or more years. Since then, the virus has been silently attacking his or her liver.

If you were born between 1945-1965, talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about getting tested. Take a five-minute online test to see your risk of hepatitis exposure. Learn more about hepatitis.

Our previous posts on hepatitis:

Viral Hepatitis Coordinator Kim Desmarais

by Kim Desmarais

Kim leads our efforts to identify and follow up on hepatitis activity in our communities.