CDC to Boomers: "Get a Hepatitis C Test"

Nov 01, 2012, 10:00 ET from American Clinical Laboratory Association

CDC Calls for HEP-C Testing for People Born between 1945-1965

Lab test can identify virus and help prevent an estimated 120,000 deaths

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In addition to Elvis, the Beatles, and advancing waistlines, baby boomers now have one more thing in common -- they need to get a test for the Hepatitis C virus.

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a recommendation that people born between 1945 and 1965 receive a one-time blood test for Hepatitis C, a viral infection that can cause serious damage to the liver, including cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.  Prompt testing can help stop the infection.

Recent research has shown that people born between 1945 and 1965 – commonly called the baby boomer generation – are five times more likely to be infected with Hepatitis C than are people born in other age ranges. In addition, three out of every four people with Hepatitis C were born in the boomer years. The reasons for the higher prevalence in this population are not completely understood, according to the CDC.

"It's important that everyone in the baby boomer age range be tested, because as many as 75% of people with Hepatitis C don't know they are infected," said Alan Mertz, president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA). "Many people can live for decades without symptoms, but damage is being done to your liver nonetheless. Having the test could help save your life."

According to the CDC, the number of people who will suffer from serious health problems from the virus is expected to rise rapidly in the future.  One-time testing of baby boomers is projected to identify 800,000 cases of undiagnosed Hepatitis C and prevent 120,000 deaths, the CDC estimates.

For the test, a blood sample is taken from a vein in the arm. The most common test looks for the virus's antibodies, which the body makes in response to the Hepatitis C infection.  If the antibody test is positive, indicating prior exposure to the virus, a physician will order an additional test to look for the presence or amount of viral RNA (a component of DNA), or to identify the specific subtype of viral RNA.

For those who test positive, two antiviral medications are available to help fight the infection. These medications are effective and can shorten treatment time, according to the CDC. For many people, the treatment can wipe out the virus and it will no longer be detected in the blood.

The Hepatitis C virus can be spread through sharing needles or syringes; needle stick injuries in a health care setting; childbirth, if the mother has the virus; and blood transfusions or organ transplants before widespread screening of blood supplies began in 1992.

While 70% to 80% of people with the virus have no symptoms, others can experience mild to severe symptoms that include jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), fever, fatigue, and nausea.

The American Clinical Laboratory Association is a non-profit group representing the nation's clinical  laboratories. Results for Life, the group's educational campaign, focuses on the value of laboratory medicine. See

Contact: Scott McGoohan
American Clinical Laboratory Association
Tel: 202.637.9466

SOURCE American Clinical Laboratory Association