Baby Boomers – Have You Been Screened For Hepatitis Yet?

Hepatitis C is a global epidemic. And baby boomers are especially likely to have the disease, according to the University of Michigan Health System. They are five times more likely to have been exposed to the infection than other age groups. In fact, baby boomers comprise 75 percent of adults with hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is an infectious liver disease. About 170,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. About 3.2 million Americans have the disease. Although most cases are transmitted through contaminated blood, some have been traced to sexual contact.

There are two types of hepatitis C—acute and chronic. Hep C sets in as an acute (short term) infection within six months after coming into contact with the virus. Acute hepatitis C may clear up on its own or with the help of antiviral drugs.

Between 75 and 85 percent of acute hepatitis C cases will progress into chronic hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sometimes the virus evolves when cases fail to respond to antiviral drugs. More often people with the virus don’t have symptoms and don’t seek treatment.

Chronic hepatitis C is serious business. It can last the span of your life and cause liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Once the infection becomes chronic, it will produce symptoms such as fever, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, gray colored stool and jaundice, making it much easier to diagnose. A doctor can determine the strain of the virus causing the infection and decide if patients need treatment.

That’s the good news about hepatitis C. Treatment is available. If you have the virus, you may be prescribed a new antiviral drug. They’re effective but also expensive. Healthline estimates that medications range between $63,000 and $95,000 for a 12-week treatment cycle that may be covered by your Medicare, Medicaid or commercial insurance plan.

Your doctor also may prescribe additional medications and encourage lifestyle changes like giving up alcohol and tobacco to help prevent complications. In addition to liver disease and cancer, some experts now consider Parkinson’s disease to be a complication. Results from a new study published Neurology found patients with chronic hepatitis C had 51 percent greater chance of developing Parkinson’s disease compared people without the condition.

At this point, your best defense against chronic hepatitis C is to reduce risk factors and get tested. Common risk factors include having a history of a needlestick or sharps injury, piercings or tattoos with unsterile equipment, illicit/inhaled drug use, blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992 and HIV infection.

Screenings can detect past exposure and current infection. Discuss with your doctor if you should have a hepatitis C test.

Work with your MDVIP-affiliated doctor to help you keep your liver healthy by limiting alcohol intake, eating a healthy diet, managing weight and quitting tobacco and marijuana. As part of the MDVIP Wellness Program, your doctor can customize a wellness plan for you and your needs. Don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated doctor? Find one near you by clicking here »

10 Comments
kim irene mandelbaum
Apr 24th, 2017
I am shocked that our physician is trying to provide a public service by warning us about potential health issues &, instead, people are paying attention to sentence structure or just outright expressing anger at having gotten the message in the first place. Really?
David McMillan
Apr 23rd, 2017
You have my records. Don't send me frightening messages without checking to see if I need the test. I think that I have already had it. I don't appreciate you preying on my fears
1 Reply
MDVIP
Apr 25th, 2017
Greetings David. We don’t have your records; only your doctor(s) does. We covered Hepatitis C because many of our affiliated members fall into the baby boomer generation and are at risk. Our intention was not to frighten you. It was for readers to discuss their risks with their doctors and get screened it it’s appropriate. In good health, MDVIP.

Lynn Ogden
Apr 22nd, 2017
MY, my: I didn't know we had so many English majors who are doctors!
Thanks for the comments on Hep. C.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Apr 25th, 2017
Greetings Lynn. Thank you very much. In good health, MDVIP.

Jane Kay Wasoff
Apr 21st, 2017
I greatly appreciate this communication. I had life-saving emergency surgery in 1980. My abdominal aorta ruptured and they had to give me 9 units of blood. Now I understand that the life-saving transfusions I received in 1980 were not screened for Hep C. I will speak with my MDVIP doctor about this.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Apr 25th, 2017
Greetings Jane. That was the purpose of this blog--to encourage members at risk, including those who had a blood transfusion before May 1990, to discuss Hepatitis C with their doctor. In good health, MDVIP.

Sue Dumm
Apr 21st, 2017
There does not seem to be a definitive answer as to why Baby Boomers are at greater risk (than other members of the population) for acute/chronic Hepatitis C. Could this not be a disease that had been identified to suit a "money-making" drug?
1 Reply
MDVIP
Apr 25th, 2017
You’re right. Experts don’t understand why baby boomers have such a high risk. One theory proposed by the CDC is that baby boomers involved in risky behavior were infected sometime between 1960 and 1980, when the transmission of hepatitis C was at its highest. Another risk factor are the blood banks as they didn’t begin screening for hepatitis C until May 1990. This means anyone who received a blood transfusion during this period is at risk.
Mary zane
Apr 21st, 2017
I too would like more specific information re the cause of Hep C in the specific age group cited in this article.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Apr 25th, 2017
Greetings Mary. Hepatitis C is transmitted primarily through infected blood. Sharing needles (illicit drug users), needlesticks (healthcare workers) and blood transfusions are the common causes; however, some cases have been linked to sexual contact. Experts do not understand why baby boomers have such a high risk. One theory proposed by the CDC is that baby boomers involved in risky behavior were infected sometime between 1960 and 1980, when the transmission of hepatitis C was at its highest. Another risk factor are the blood banks as they didn’t begin screening for hepatitis C until May 1990. This means anyone who received a blood transfusion during this period is at risk.
Ruth Cook
Apr 21st, 2017
Have had hep C as a cchild.
Dan Pasquale
Apr 21st, 2017
The author states: "They (baby boomers) are five times more likely to have been exposed to the infection than other age groups. In fact, baby boomers comprise 75 percent of adults with hepatitis C." A very powerful statement, particularly for those like myself that are in that age group. I was hoping the author would have elaborated as to why this group now finds themselves in this situation. Was it poor life style choices in our youth, or lack of adequate laboratory protocols that have now been corrected?
Roger Johnson
Apr 20th, 2017
I noticed a couple of sentences with poor grammar. For example, "If you have the virus, you may be prescribed a new antiviral drugs." This lacks agreement between a and drugs. The next paragraph has a problem. You really need to proofread better.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Apr 25th, 2017
Greetings Roger. Thank you for pointing out the minor grammatical error. In good health, MDVIP.

Carolyn Sue Jenkins
Apr 20th, 2017
I was born in 1940
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