Hepatitis C has infected over 300,000 Canadians, and 75 percent of them consist of people belonging to the generation born between 1946 and 1964, also known as “baby boomers.”
For the longest time, it has been widely believed that the deadly disease was acquired by baby boomers in their late teens or early twenties, and was transmitted to them through deviant sexual behavior and drug abuse.
It was believed that during their time, these baby boomers experimented with a lot of things, which resulted in them acquiring the disease. Hepatitis C did not develop rapidly and required up to 50 years before exhibiting its symptoms.
Hepatitis C Link to Baby Boomers, Explained
“The problem is that Hepatitis C takes somewhere around five decades to evolve into a significant disease,” mentioned in the report. What’s more alarming is that anyone who is infected is capable of infecting others through their blood.
However, British Columbia researchers have recently found out that the boom of the Hepatitis C epidemic took place in 1950, and not 15 years later, where drug injection, sexual experimentation, and other risky behaviors became rampant.
Researchers from B.C. Centre of Excellence in HIV/AIDS, as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found out that there were 40,000 cases of Hepatitis C at that time, and that the epidemic actually reached its peak that year.
“The spread of Hepatitis C in North America occurred at least 15 years earlier than it was suspected before, and if that is the case, the baby boomer epidemic… cannot be explained by behavioral indiscretions on the part of the baby boomers,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, the director of the BC Centre of Excellence in HIV/AIDS and also a co-investigator of the research.
— BC-CfE in HIV/AIDS (@bccfe) April 1, 2016
According to their research, what caused the spread of the disease may not have been a high-risk lifestyle, as previously believed, but the medical practices at the time.
During the time when Hepatitis C had yet to be identified, hospitals and clinics used reusable glass-tube syringes and metal needles, which could still be contaminated even after boiling and sterilization.
The research also backs up similar data in other countries like Italy, France, Japan, and Russia, where there are also cases of Hepatitis C. But when hospitals around the world began using disposable needles and syringes, the transmission of the Hep C virus slowed down.
Montaner also addressed the fact that people had not been informed enough about Hepatitis C, and some of the people who knew about it were only aware that the disease was caused by risky lifestyles during their teens and early 20s.
Through the decades, because of the wrong notion, only baby boomers who practiced risky sexual behavior and drug use in the past were subject to tests.
However, the team of researchers recommended that everyone who belongs to the baby boomer generation should undergo tests and not wait until they develop symptoms of the disease.
The CDC Advises ‘Baby Boomers’ to Get Tested for Hepatitis C
“Waiting for people to develop symptoms to be diagnosed and treated is too late, particularly because some of the damage that come from Hepatitis C would be irreversible,” said Montaner.
If left untreated, Hepatitis C can lead to other serious medical conditions such as cirrhosis and even liver cancer.
Unfortunately, most baby boomers in North America are not aware that they have the virus.
According to Cynthia Carter, a Saanich volunteer for the B.C. Hepatitis C Education and Prevention Society, they focus on baby boomers because they represent the majority of Hep C patients.
“We recommend that everyone who is a baby boomer go to their doctor and ask for a test,” Carter added.
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