Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released final expanded hepatitis C screening recommendations calling for all Americans born from 1945 through 1965 to get a one-time test for hepatitis C.
Aimed at identifying more hidden infections among those most affected by the disease and reducing the rising toll of hepatitis C-related illness and death in the United States, the new recommendations expand CDC’s existing risk-based recommendations. Those called for testing only individuals with certain known risk factors for hepatitis C infection. Risk-based screening will continue to be important. But, that approach alone is not sufficient since more than 2 million U.S. baby boomers are infected with hepatitis C – and most of them don’t know it. These 2 million persons account for more than 75 percent of all American adults living with the virus. 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.
In developing the recommendations, CDC cites studies showing that many baby boomers were infected with the virus decades ago, do not perceive themselves to be at risk, and have never been screened.
CDC estimates one-time hepatitis C testing of baby boomers could identify more than 800,000 additional people with hepatitis C. And with newly available therapies that can cure up to 75 percent of infections, expanded testing – along with linkage to appropriate care and treatment – would prevent the costly consequences of liver cancer and other chronic liver diseases and save more than 120,000 lives.
“A one-time blood test for hepatitis C should be on every baby boomer’s medical checklist,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “The new recommendations can protect the health of an entire generation of Americans and save thousands of lives.”
The expanded recommendations have been finalized after a public comment period and were published in the August 17th issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
To support implementation of the new hepatitis C testing recommendations, CDC has:
- produced this infographic and fact sheet (PDF 300KB) that can be downloaded and shared with family, friends, and colleagues
- developed web buttons and badges similar to the one featured here that can be added to any web site to help educate people about the new recommendation
- provided posters that can be downloaded and printed for use in health care settings, community organizations, faith communities and elsewhere
Finally, CDC has also updated its online Hepatitis Risk Assessment to include the new age cohort recommendation. This confidential tool allows individuals to determine their risk for viral hepatitis by answering questions privately, either in their home or a health care setting. They can then print tailored recommendations based on CDC’s testing and vaccination guidelines for viral hepatitis to discuss with their doctor.
These new recommendations are a significant advance toward the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis’ goal of identifying persons infected with viral hepatitis early in the course of their disease. Please help us share this important new recommendation among your networks.