Officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend all Baby Boomers – people born between 1945 and 1965 – to undergo a basic screening for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
While the federal agency does not encourage panic, experts say that the test should not be put off for years. It is recommended that people born within this interval get tested as soon as possible, they add.
There are many things that can characterize this generation, from musical and sexual liberation to heavy drug use, but unfortunately, the incidence of HCV is also one of its defining features.
According to a new CDC report, more than 75 percent of HCV infections in the United States (between 2.7 and 3.9 million cases) affect Baby Boomers. The incidence of the often-fatal disease in this subgroup of the general population is 3.25 percent.
This rate is 500 percent higher than that affecting people born either before 1945, or after 1965. It's also important to note here that males are about 200 percent more likely to be infected than females.
Black Baby Boomer men exhibit the highest incidence of HCV, at around 8.12 percent, followed by Whites, at 4.05 percent and Mexican-Americans, at 3.41 percent. The tests are all the more important since not much is known about this virus. Its routes of transmission are still a mystery, for example.
“We don't think every [baby boomer] needs to run out and see their primary care provider and get tested immediately, but they shouldn't put this off for years either. The sooner it can happen, the more lives we’ll be able to save,” expert Bryce Smith explains.
The CDC investigator holds an appointment as a social scientist at the CDC. He is also the lead author of the new recommendations, which were published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The tests are also important because HCV can be better treated if discovered early. There is currently no vaccine against this virus. Modern antivirals are more effective at dealing with the pathogen than previous generations, but they cannot guarantee survival, Science Insider
“People just don’t know the various ways they might be able to acquire hepatitis C, and that's really the point of just testing everyone in that [baby boomer] birth cohort. It's worth acknowledging that all of these exposures happened in the '70s and '80s, and memories may not be that good,” Smith concludes.