Hepatitis C testing still low for baby boomers, study says

An analysis of health data shows shows baby boomers are not getting tested for hepatitis C despite recommendations to do so. For many, the infection does not carry symptoms and is not diagnosed until a more serious health condition is detected. Photo by Kzenon/Shutterstock

March 8 (UPI) — A study from the American Cancer Society found that two years after new recommendations were released, the number of baby boomers getting tested for hepatitis C virus remained low.

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease spread through contact with blood from someone with the virus, and is often spread by sharing needles, as well as through blood transfusions and organ transplants. The infection can’t be cured, and there is no vaccine against it, however drug treatment can lessen the risk of other health complications.

Most people with hepatitis C have no symptoms until the disease progresses to liver damage such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force, or USPSTF, recommended testing for all baby boomers for hepatitis C in 2013. However, a new study shows that a very small amount of baby boomers are getting being tested.

Approximately 3.5 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C. Roughly 80 percent of those with the infection are baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965, and most are unaware they have the disease.

Researchers analyzed responses from roughly 24,000 baby boomers in the National Health Interview Survey and found of the 76.2 million baby boomers in 2015, only 10.5 million reported ever being tested for hepatitis C.

The analysis revealed that from 2013 to 2015 the prevalence of hepatitis C testing among baby boomers increased slightly from 12.3 percent to 13.8 percent.

Researchers found that people with Medicaid, Medicare with Medicaid or military insurance had higher rates of hepatitis C testing than privately insured individuals. Testing was also greater in men than women and higher in college graduates.

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


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