Hepatitis C is a silent killer that could be affecting baby boomers. While they only comprise 27% of the U.S. population, the CDC accounts for 75% of Hepatitis C cases and 73% of the deaths related to the virus.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends Hepatitis C testing for those born between 1945 and 1965. The CDC, along with other Health Departments all over the country are teaming up to offer free education and testing for Hepatitis C throughout the month of May.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease revealed that 4 million Americans were affected and 180 million worldwide. While some people’s bodies are immune to the Hepatitis C virus, 80% of them can become infected and could develop major health problems. According to director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, complete Hepatitis C testing and treatment are indispensable in order to avoid liver cancer and other serious health problems. Their data revealed that in eight regions across the U.S only 51% of Americans infected by Hepatitis C have the necessary follow-up tests to determine if they are still infected.
In light of the Hepatitis Awareness month, many medical testing facilities, including Medspring is offering free Hepatitis C screening called antibody test, in any one of their 14 centers in Houston, Chicago, and Austin.
Why are the baby boomers at risk?
Between 1969 and 1980, IV drug use was prevalent. Hepatitis C is life-threatening for baby boomers according to MedSpring’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jon L. Belsher, M.D., because it could go unnoticed for many years. In fact, many people have no symptoms at all.
The Hepatitis C virus is very contagious and it’s a blood-borne infection that could affect the liver. Baby boomers might have contracted the disease through the use of injected drugs, organ transplant or a simple blood transfusion.
Before 1992, a lot of people sold their blood for money,thus, some blood banks may have been infected by the virus. These blood donations did not undergo HCV screening.
Another culprit was the Vietnam War because most of the blood used for surgeries came from prisons.
Prisons during that time had prevalent cases of Hepatitis C because of inmate tattoos, and the blood donors did not undergo the antibody test. Similarly, the needles used for inoculating soldiers were contaminated and were never changed. Another cause was the prevalence of piercing in 1965.
Hepatitis C is a silent killer, according to the CDC. It can affect anyone of any age. However, it cannot be transmitted through sharing eating and drinking utensils, sneezing or breastfeeding. In rare cases, it can be transmitted through sexual intercourse – NIAID.
CDC urges those who are at risk to undergo screening and testing. Go to the nearest medical facility for free referrals to accredited testing centers.
May is the Hepatitis Awareness month and The National Hepatitis C Testing is on May 19.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas