In recognition of Hepatitis Awareness Month, Maine CDC is featuring a three-part series on viral hepatitis in public health updates released in May.
Part 3: Baby Boomers and Hepatitis C
About 3 million adults in the US are infected with the hepatitis C virus, most are baby boomers. Anyone can get hepatitis C, but adults born from 1945-1965, or baby boomers, are 5 times more likely to have hepatitis C.
US CDC now recommends that baby boomers, or those born during 1945-1965, get tested for hepatitis C virus (HCV). The reason that baby boomers have high rates of Hepatitis C is not completely understood. Most boomers are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s when rates of Hepatitis C were the highest. Since people with Hepatitis C can live for decades without symptoms, many baby boomers are unknowingly living with an infection they got many years ago.
Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person. Many baby boomers could have gotten infected from contaminated blood and blood products before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992 and universal precautions were adopted. Others may have become infected from injecting drugs, even if only once in the past. Still, many baby boomers do not know how or when they were infected.
Recommendations for the Identification of Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection Among Persons Born during 1945–1965
· Adults born during 1945–1965 should receive one-time testing for HCV without prior ascertainment of HCV risk.
· All persons with identified HCV infection should receive a brief alcohol screening and intervention as clinically indicated, followed by referral to appropriate care and treatment services for HCV infection and related conditions.