Hepatitis C and All of We

Line up baby boomers – all 78 million of you – it’s time to test for hepatitis C. That’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) propose. We all need to get a blood test. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that may progress to liver cancer or cirrhosis. Hepatitis C, the most common type in the United States, is spread when blood from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Around 15%–25% of infected people clear the virus without any treatment, but the remaining 75%–85% develop a chronic infection that may be silent for years. Most infected people don’t feel sick – while their livers are slowly being damaged.

Historically, the CDC has recommended testing people known to be at high risk.  They include current and past users of injection drugs, recipients of blood transfusions and organ transplants before 1990 when screening blood donations became widespread, and healthcare workers exposed to blood. Much less commonly, the hepatitis C virus is spread by sharing razors, toothbrushes, and other personal care items that may come in contact with blood. Having sex with someone infected with hepatitis C is somewhat risky too, especially when exposed to multiple sex partners who have sexually transmitted diseases. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Bummer.

I, for one, I wish the CDC would stop scaring me. Doctors test for the hepatitis C antibody (also called HCAb or anti-HCV) to tell if you’ve been infected. The test is very sensitive, which means false positives, more testing, and more being scared. All when only 3 percent of asymptomatic boomers actually test positive. As a responsible health blogger, I probably shouldn’t say this, but I am always skeptical of guidelines that push asymptomatic individuals en masse towards prescriptions. I just wonder who is being best served. The CDC’s draft recommendations are available for public comment until June 8, 2012.

Your thoughts: Are you worried about having hepatitis C?

Addendum:  August 16, 2012
It’s official: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending that all U.S. baby boomers get a one-time test for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, according to final screening guidelines released by the public health agency.  Read more.

4 thoughts on “Hepatitis C and All of We

  1. The virus persists in the liver in about 85% of those infected. This persistent infection can be treated with medication: the standard therapy is a combination of peginterferon and ribavirin, with either boceprevir or telaprevir added in some cases. Overall, 50–80% of people treated are cured.*”**

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  2. Careful, HepC is not a joke! It’s very often deadly! I found out I had HepC in 1995 when I donated blood. I got it from a transfusion in the early 70’s. I had no reason to suspect I had anything. After treatment I still had stage 2 liver disease- and I was only 32. I have made drastic life changes due to my diagnosis- no alcohol-ever, very wary of pain killers etc. Without a diagnosis I would have continued with potentially deadly habits until I destroyed my liver and became symptomatic. BTW this is critical- a very small percent of HepC is “cured” with treatment. and it will often reoccur even after the virus initially seems to be gone (it’s very tricky). For many with HepC lifestyle changes are their best hope until treatment improves. The earlier changes are made then the better the chances are for a long life. Also HepA is deadly to someone w/ HepC- and easy to pick up.

    Would you advise your readers to skip the mammogram if nothing hurts? And you list how easily it is to contract/pass on this disease. Are you suggesting your readers put their friends and family members at risk by not testing themselves? I find it offensive that you think such a test at a yearly checkup should even be up for debate- HepC deaths have surpassed HIV fatalities. And often, with small lifestyle changes, a fatality can be avoided.

    • Thank you for commenting. I am very sorry to read about your unfortunate medical diagnosis. You were at high risk because you had a blood transfusion in the early 70’s and the risk panned out. That’s horrible and it could have happened to anyone. But from a public health point of view, it doesn’t make sense to screen people who are not at risk and, truth be told, I will be surprised if the CDC’s draft recommendations come to pass as the official clinical guidelines. I certainly do not advice any individual to avoid getting the test if it makes him feel assured, and by writing this I hope I’ve enlightened people who are unaware of the issue and options. Best wishes for your good health and long life. Thanks again.

  3. Pingback: Some information about hepatitis C | WWW.SHOAIBGARANA.COM

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