(BPT) - Did you know baby boomers are at higher risk of being infected with the hepatitis C virus, and that often they don't show symptoms for many years? That's a concern, because hepatitis C is a serious liver condition that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. Seventy to 85 percent of those with Hepatitis C develop a chronic infection, which can lead to liver disease, liver cancer, and even death. In fact, as many as 3.5 million people in the U.S. have hepatitis C and most don't even know it.
What is most alarming is that those who are at highest risk are not aware that they can be living with this silent epidemic. Seventy-five percent of people with Hepatitis C are baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965.It is not well understood why baby boomers have high rates of hepatitis C, but it believed that some could have been infected from contaminated blood or even from tattoo needles or ear piercings before precautions were adopted.
Due to the high prevalence, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends those born between 1945 and 1965, who are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C, get tested for the disease. The only way to know if someone has Hepatitis C is to get screened through a simple one-time blood test. However, because most baby boomers are not aware that they are at higher risk, they are not tested and may be unaware that they have the infection. Not only does this affect that person, but it can continue the spread of Hepatitis C to loved ones.
There are new and successful treatments, which can eliminate the virus, preventing liver damage and liver disease. Antiviral medications can cure approximately 90 percent of Hepatitis C infections but the biggest barrier is diagnosis, which can be difficult since people can live for decades without any symptoms. This is why talking to a doctor and getting screened is so vital. Early diagnosis leads to early treatment and the prevention of health problems that Hepatitis C can present over time.
Unfortunately, the delay in diagnosis and treatment has been a contributing factor to half of the cases of liver cancer in the United States, which incidence increased by 72 percent from 2003 to 2012. Quest Diagnostics, a leading provider of hepatitis C testing, recently launched a new video for baby boomers to help raise awareness and create a better understanding of the importance of Hepatitis C screenings.
The CDC continues to urge those born between 1945 and 1965 to speak with their doctors about getting screened. One simple blood test can make a huge difference in someone's life.