Hepatitis C Test- Baby Boomers Need to be Screened


close-up-tattoo-artist-tattooing-clientThe United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends all baby boomers test for Hepatitis C Virus.

The Task Force is changing a decision they released in November in which they concluded that testing all baby boomers would offer a limited benefit.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), each year about 17,000 Americans become infected with hepatitis C, but an estimated 3.2 million people in the United States are living with chronic hepatitis C infection. Up to 75% people with chronic hepatitis C infection were born during 1945-1965, most of whom are unaware of their infection.

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread when a person infected with HCV shares blood with another person.  It can be transferred by sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs intravenously.  It can also be transmitted through blood transfusions.

Since testing of blood donations did not start until 1992, it is especially recommended for anyone who had a blood transfusion before the widespread testing.

The CDC states that 15–25% of people “clear” the virus without treatment; however, approximately 75–85% of people who become infected will develop “chronic,” or lifelong, HCV infection.

HCV can silently damage the liver without showing any signs for up to 30 years, when symptoms do appear they are usually a sign of advanced liver disease.  Symptoms may consist of fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, grey-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice.

The CDC recommended on last year that all baby boomers be tested, prior to the Task Force announcement that only high risk adults should be tested, comprising those who may have been intravenous drug users and those who had blood transfusions.

On Monday, the Task Force reversed its opinion after reviewing more data and comments from the public. They decided that testing would probably provide a moderate net benefit for baby boomers.

This will definitely give drug companies that develop drugs for hepatitis C a boost, such as Merck, Vertex, Gilead and AbbVie.  Individuals with the virus will need to be placed on a drug treatment program.  It will also help companies that develop the tests.

Merck and Vertex Pharmaceuticals have developed new drugs that increase the cure rates for hepatitis C with other prescribed drugs.  Several pharmaceuticals are developing new drugs that will make the present regimen of weekly injections obsolete.

The Task force, which is an independent group appointed by the government, suggested that the CDC ‘s numbers were off regarding the number of people who may develop liver problems and die, which resulted in exaggerated benefits of the screening.

The task force announcement on Monday was a result of new data and the growing effectiveness of treatment which bolstered the case of a wide spread screening of baby boomers.

Under the new recommendations, this initiative was given a grade of B, which under the Affordable Care Act is a preventative service provided without co-payments from patients; however, some health plans may be exempt.

The conclusion is that all Baby Boomers are under this recommendation to protect them from the consequences of liver disease.

By: Veverly Edwards

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