NYS Blazes Trail on Baby Boomer Health; First to Ensure Hep C Screen Test Offered

200K NYers May Have the Potentially Deadly Disease But Many Don't Know It

ALBANY, N.Y., Oct. 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made New York a national leader in protecting baby boomers' health by signing an AARP-backed bill requiring that health care providers offer boomers a screening test for potentially deadly hepatitis C.

New York will become the first state in the nation to ensure boomers are offered the important, preventative test.

The new Hepatitis C law (S2750A/A1286), sponsored by Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-New City), requires screening tests be offered to people born between 1945 and 1965 when seeing their primary care doctor and receiving hospital inpatient and outpatient care.

Many baby boomers across New York have hepatitis C without even knowing it. Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver and can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or fatal liver cancer.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called for such testing in August 2012 after finding people born between 1945 and 1965 are at risk for Hepatitis C infection. Those baby boomers accounted for 75 percent of the estimated 3.2 million Americans infected with hepatitis C, the CDC found.

An estimated 200,000 New Yorkers are living with Hepatitis C, and it's an increasing cause of illness and death. But 45 percent to 85 percent of people living with the disease are unaware they have it, since it often shows no symptoms, according to a CDC report.

The CDC recognized AARP New York's advocacy of the bill in July by presenting an award for State Director Beth Finkel at a reception on the White House grounds in Washington, D.C. The reception at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building was part of World Hepatitis Day events sponsored by the White House Offices of National AIDS Policy and National Drug Control Policy.

"Offering a screening test to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers whose lives could be saved or improved is common sense and good preventive medicine," said Beth Finkel, AARP New York State Director. "AARP applauds Governor Cuomo for making New York a national leader on this critical issue by signing this bill into law."

There have been great advances over the past few years in treatments for hepatitis C, and many carrying the disease can be cured.

By increasing testing opportunities, the new law – which takes effect Jan. 1, 2014 - will make more people living with hepatitis C aware of their infection status, get available treatment, and take steps to prevent transmission.

Empowering individuals to know their hepatitis C infection status is an important step toward meeting the public health challenges presented by a disease that is contagious and communicable. Given that many people infected with this disease show no symptoms, testing is a crucial factor in disease prevention.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, urged colleagues last spring to test all baby boomers for hepatitis C.

Follow us on Twitter:  @AARPNY and Facebook: AARP New York

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.  A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.

SOURCE AARP New York



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