THURSDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Every American born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested for the liver-destroying virus hepatitis C, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Thursday.
One in 30 Baby Boomers is infected with the virus and most don't know it. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and other liver diseases, and is the leading cause of liver transplants, the CDC said.
Each year, more than 15,000 Americans, most of them Baby Boomers, die from hepatitis C-related illness, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Deaths from the virus have been increasing for over a decade and are expected to increase in the coming years.
"And deaths from hepatitis C have nearly doubled over the past decade," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said during an afternoon news conference. "Unless we take action now, deaths will increase substantially in the coming years."
Baby boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adult Americans, Frieden said.
So, the CDC is now recommending one-time testing for hepatitis C for everyone in the country born between 1945 and 1965, he said. All those who test positive for the virus should receive a brief alcohol screening and intervention and be referred to appropriate care and treatment services. Alcohol use has been shown to accelerate the progression of liver disease, the agency added.
Until now, the recommendation had been for testing only those at risk. "But that approach missed far too many infections," Frieden explained.
These new recommendations take into account that more than 2 million Baby Boomers are infected with hepatitis C, accounting for more than 75 percent of all American adults living with the disease.
Many Baby Boomers were infected years ago and don't consider themselves at risk, so they've never been screened, Frieden noted.
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