CDC has released draft recommendations proposing that all Americans born from 1945 through 1965 (“baby boomers”) get a one-time test for the hepatitis C virus. In the United States, hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants and liver cancer, which is the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related deaths in the nation. 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. Most of them, though, do not know that they have the virus because hepatitis C can damage the liver for many years without noticeable symptoms. More than 15,000 Americans—mostly 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.
CDC estimates one-time hepatitis C testing of baby boomers could identify more than 800,000 additional people with hepatitis C and save more than 120,000 lives. CDC believes the expanded screening efforts are needed to increase the proportion of persons with hepatitis C who are diagnosed, and referred to care to slow or halt progression of the disease and avoid transmission to others. New treatments are now available that can cure up to 75% of infections, and even more promising treatments are expected in the near future. CDC believes that expanded screening efforts can prevent thousands of unnecessary deaths from hepatitis C.
CDC’s new recommendations augment current hepatitis C testing guidelines that call for testing individuals with a known risk for the disease. Studies have found that most persons do not perceive themselves to be at risk and are not screened. CDC’s recommendations propose that a one-time blood test for hepatitis C should become a standard part of medical care for all persons born from 1945 through 1965.
In a May 22, 2012 Federal Register Notice, CDC formally invited public comment on this draft recommendation. We encourage you to review and comment on these important proposed recommendations which will be available for public comment through June 8 on www.regulations.gov, docket number CDC-2012-0005. Public comment will be used to inform the final recommendations, which will be finalized later this year.
For more information, see this factsheet (PDF 374KB) on the proposed testing recommendations.