Should You Be Tested for Hepatitis C?

Vials of blood (Credit: Flickr/VivaAnarctica)

This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended hepatitis C tests for all adults born between the years of 1945 and 1965, according to a NBC report.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus usually spread by needles used to inject drugs. It causes liver damage and leads to liver cancer and cirrhosis. More than 15,000 deaths are caused each year by Hepatitis C  and the virus is the no. 1 reason that Americans need liver transplants, according to the CDC .

“A one-time blood test for hepatitis C should be on every baby boomer’s medical checklist,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden in a CDC press release. “The new recommendations can protect the health of an entire generation of Americans and save thousands of lives.”

Studies have shown that Baby Boomers may have been infected with Hepatitis C years ago, before widespread testing was implemented and before education programs about the dangers of intravenous drug use began. At least 2 million Baby Boomers are now infected with the disease and one-time Hepatitis C tests could help identify 800,000 more.

Hepatitis C can be detected with a blood test. Infections are divided into two types. Acute Hepatitis C occurs six months after a person is exposed to the virus and causes a short-term illness, while Chronic Hepatitis C is a chronic condition that leads to long-term health problems and even death, according to the CDC.

There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, though the disease can be prevented by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, such as injection drug use. There is a low risk of contracting Hepatitis C through sexual contact and sharing items like toothbrushes or razors that may have come into contact with an infected person’s blood.

To learn more about Hepatitis C, visit the CDC’s website.

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