Surgeon General’s Perspectives

Publichealthreports: 3/27/14

TESTING BABY BOOMERS FOR HEPATITIS C VIRUS INFECTION

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a deadly virus that often goes undetected. In the United States, an estimated 2.7–3.9 million people are infected, three-quarters of whom are baby boomers who were born from 1945 to 1965.1 As a fellow baby boomer, I am very concerned that one in 40 baby boomers—about 2.1 million people—are infected with HCV. African American people are also disproportionately affected by HCV. Unfortunately, only testing those with certain risk factors and medical indications has had limited success in identifying all infections during the past 15 years.2–4

In the absence of effective detection and treatment, it is estimated that more than one-third of infected people may die from HCV-related disease,5 and that three-quarters of these deaths would occur among baby boomers. HCV-associated deaths are rapidly increasing, doubling from nearly 8,000 deaths in 1999 to more than 16,000 deaths in 2010,6,7 and are expected to increase to more than 35,000 deaths per year in the next 10–20 years without intervention. HCV infection is also the most common reason for liver transplantation and a leading cause of liver cancer,8,9 the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. Treatment for HCV is curative, however, and has been shown to reduce all-cause mortality among cured individuals.10  Read More