Federal officials this week issued a statement in which they urged baby boomers to get tested for hepatitis C, an infection they say has become a “silent epidemic” among boomers.
According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths from the virus doubled between 1999 and 2007 to more than 15,000, while three in four of those with the disease die from it.
According to the CDC Hepatitis C is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and is the most common reason for liver transplants in the United States.
In may cases baby boomers who participated in an earler drug culture or received blood transfusions that were not as well monitored before the AIDS epidemic contract the disease and have lived without symptoms through their young adult and adult lives. Doctors warn that the disease can remain hidden for decades until it eventually destroys liver cells.
While there is no vaccine or cure for Hepatitis C, when caught early doctors can treat the disease to slow its progression, especially with new drugs coming onto the market that have proven more effective with less side effects.
In the meantime the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plan to release a recommendation later in the year in which they urge all people born between 1945 through 1965 to get tested.
Government officials point to the extremely high cost of liver disease, cancer and transplants as a good reason to get tested, in California alone in 2010 the cost of those procedures skyrocketed to $2 billion.