Hepatitis Testing Saves Lives

Content From: HIV.govPublished: August 30, 20123 min read


Kevin Fenton CDC
CDC’s “Recommendations for the Identification of Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection Among Persons Born During 1945–1965” was published August 16, 2012 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The new recommendations call for all Americans born from 1945 through 1965 or “baby boomers” to get a one-time blood test for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

In the United States, hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants and primary liver cancer—the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related deaths. People born from 1945 through 1965 currently account for more than 75% of adults infected with hepatitis C in the U.S. and are five times more likely to be infected than other adults. Each year, more than 15,000 Americans, most of them baby boomers, die from hepatitis C-related illness, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer; and over the last decade, deaths have been increasing steadily. Without expanded access to HCV testing, care, and treatment, mortality among those living with HCV infection, who do not know they have the infection, will continue to rise into the next decade.

Studies have found that most persons do not perceive themselves to be at risk and are not screened. This recommendation to conduct a one-time hepatitis C blood test for all persons born from 1945 through 1965 as a standard part of medical care will help to identify persons with hepatitis C and take the first step to link HCV-infected persons to care and treatment. The new recommendations augment current hepatitis C testing guidelines that call for testing individuals with a known risk for the disease.

New treatments are now available that can cure up to 75% of infections, and even more promising treatments are expected in the future. CDC estimates that implementation of these new recommendations will identify more than 800,000 additional people with hepatitis C. Linking these individuals to appropriate care and treatment would prevent the costly consequences of liver cancer and other chronic liver diseases and ultimately save more than 120,000 lives.

CDC has developed an online Hepatitis Risk Assessment tool to help healthcare providers, community-based organizations, and the general public determine risks for viral hepatitis. The 5-minute online Hepatitis Risk Assessment allows persons to determine their risks privately either at home or in a health care setting. The tailored recommendations are based on CDC’s testing and vaccination guidelines for viral hepatitis and can be printed for discussion with a health care provider.

“The new hepatitis C testing recommendations are called for in the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis and are a key component of our national response,” said Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases. Ongoing collaboration and education are critical as we continue to work toward identifying more Americans with hepatitis C and preventing the adverse effects of this infection. Please share the new hepatitis C testing recommendations with family, friends, co-workers, and health care providers to help spread the word about this important public health problem.