Peace, love, rock ‘n’ roll, and hepatitis C? The Center for Disease Control is targeting baby boomers to get a one-time test to see if they have the liver-destroying virus. The target group is people born between 1945 and 1965.
“The CDC looks at statistics. They look at certain high risk behaviors and what groups fall into that,” says Arlene Wright, a nurse practitioner with Lee Memorial Health System.
The behavior in question includes some questionable behavior dating back decades. Hepatitis C is transmitted through contact with contaminated blood, including shared needles.
“Even a one-time IV drug use, tattoos, multiple body piercings, sexual partners, that puts people at risk,” says Wright.
Deaths due to hepatitis C are on the rise, 75% of them occurring in people ages 45 to 64. Health officials believe those numbers will grow over the next 15 years,
“It can cause cirrhosis and also hepatocellular carcinoma, which is liver cancer, and there are no vaccines,” says Wright.
It’s a new strategy to target an age group, but officials figured it was better than asking people to remember their behavior 20 or 30 years ago. Especially since hepatitis C can fly under the radar for years.
“People really don’t have symptoms until much later in the course of the disease. By the time they have jaundice, which is a discoloration of the skin, or ascites, which means that their bellies are full of fluid, that’s pretty late in the course,” says Wright.
Treatment for hepatitis C is most successful when caught early. That’s putting baby boomers on the clock.