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ETpro's avatar

The CDC Just recommended baby boomers get tested for Hepatitis C. Why not those born before 1945?

Asked by ETpro (34425points) May 20th, 2012

I was born in 1944, one year short of making it into the baby boom the CDC recommendations apply to. I was one lucky kid. Dad was in the Navy, but we lived in South Norfolk and he was in the Shore Patrol so Norfolk was his duty station for the whole European phase of the war. He only got deployed to the European Theater (Italy) after VE day, to help police the devastated Axis powers until a non-Nazi civilian police force could take over.

By being born a year before the CDC’s cutoff date, am I immune? Do they just figure if I am still alive today, I probably don’t have it because it hasn’t killed me yet? Or did they just pick a convenient set of dates, and should I make sure I get myself tested for the virus. As far as I know, I have no symptoms of compromised liver function. But Hepatitis C is famous for lying dormant and undetected for many decades. And while I’ve never used IV drugs, never had a blood transfusion or gotten a tattoo, I’ve had way more than my share of cuts and gashes where a virus could have gotten into my blood stream.

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9 Answers

Ron_C's avatar

I would like to know why baby boomers need the test. I was born in ‘47 and my younger brother was born in ‘49 and neither of us show signs of any blood infection. My “little brother” was born in ‘56 and he has Hep. C. He’s a biker with numerous tattoos so we know why he has it. Neither of us older brothers ever did anything like sharing needles or getting tattoos in unsanitary places so this whole thing about being tested is a surprise to us.

Coincidentally, I have my first VA physical tomorrow and a blood test is included. They told me that they were checking B vitamin levels, screening for hepatitis and Lyme’s disease. I didn’t know about the baby-boomer thing . Maybe we got unclean vaccinations.

Lightlyseared's avatar

An estimated 75–80% of persons with chronic hepatitis C were born between 1945 and 1965. Basically its a random number based on statistical analysis to ensure that the majority of people with hep c are diagnosed without overloading the system.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I don’t think they’re against you getting tested, @ETpro, in fact, I would imagine they would love it if you got tested for it. I think they’re just trying to say that if you’re older, even if you’ve gone all this time without symptoms and don’t remember engaging in any risky behavior, you could still have it, so don’t just assume you don’t have it, know you don’t have it.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Ron_C I think it’s more that people don’t always know all the possible ways to contract Hep-C. Sure, you can get it through tattoos and piercings, but you can also get it by sharing a razor or a toothbrush, or getting a manicure or pedicure. It’s pretty easy for a woman to get Hep-C at a salon, and then give it to her husband when he uses her lady razor in a pinch. Younger generations are more likely to have grown up hearing not only all the ways you can catch it, but all the stories about a cousin of a best friend who has Hep-C that drives it home.

bkcunningham's avatar

Here is the link to the actual press release from the CDC and a portion of the release:

“On the eve of the first ever National Hepatitis Testing Day (May 19), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing draft guidelines proposing that all U.S. baby boomers get a one-time test for the hepatitis C virus. One in 30 baby boomers – the generation born from 1945 through 1965 – has been infected with hepatitis C, and most don’t know it. Hepatitis C causes serious liver diseases including liver cancer, which is the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related deaths, and the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.

“CDC believes this approach will address the largely preventable consequences of this disease, especially in light of newly available therapies that can cure up to 75 percent of infections.

“ ‘With increasingly effective treatments now available, we can prevent tens of thousands of deaths from hepatitis C,’ said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.

“More than 2 million U.S. baby boomers are infected with hepatitis C, accounting for more than 75 percent of all American adults living with the virus. Baby boomers are five times more likely to be infected than other adults. Yet most infected baby boomers do not know they have the virus because hepatitis C can damage the liver for many years with few noticeable symptoms. More than 15,000 Americans, most of them baby boomers, die each year from hepatitis C-related illness, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, and deaths have been increasing steadily for over a decade and are projected to grow significantly in coming years.”


bkcunningham's avatar

Also, from the release: “Other important announcements tied to the first National Hepatitis Testing Day include:

“The release of a $6.5 million funding opportunity announcement to expand testing of hepatitis B and hepatitis C, increase earlier diagnosis of individuals with infections, and enhance linkage to care, treatment and preventive services for people living with these infections.

“Funded efforts will focus on groups that are disproportionately affected by the disease, including Asian-American Pacific Islander communities who have the highest rates of hepatitis B, and injection drug users and individuals born from 1945 – 1965 who are most affected by hepatitis C. These efforts align with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, which was released in May 2011.”

lillycoyote's avatar

Yes, it looks like a matter of focusing where the risk is. The article you link to states that Baby Boomers account for over 2,000,000 of the 3,200,000 million people in the U.S. infected with Hepatitis C, that’s 62% of those infected, but Boomers represent only 28% of the U.S. population. Baby Boomers seem to be where the highest risk is so that is the demographic for which the CDC recommending testing. Since everyone can’t be tested for everything, too expensive, risk of false positives, all sorts of issues involved in that, the medical community and public health agencies like the CDC really have to focus on where the risk is. If you’re concerned about your own Hepatitis C status then you should certainly get tested, as should anyone who has engaged in any of the things you listed that would put them at risk.

Rarebear's avatar

Because epidemiologically baby boomers are more likely to have contracted hepatitis C from elicit drug use. And now we can actually treat it so the CDC is recommending higher risk people geting tested.

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