CDC Recommends One-Time Hepatitis C Test for All Baby Boomers

Industry and community partners applaud CDC's work to protect people from viral hepatitis, support CDC's efforts through public-private partnerships

August 16, 2012 – All U.S. baby boomers should get a one-time test for the hepatitis C virus, according to final recommendations published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  One in 30 baby boomers has been infected with hepatitis C, and most don’t know it.  The baby boomer generation are those born from 1945 through 1965 who are currently between 47 and 67 years old. Hepatitis C causes serious liver diseases, including liver cancer (the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related deaths) and is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States. 

Industry and community members of the CDC Foundation's Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition (Coalition) applaud CDC's efforts to protect people from hepatitis C through expanded testing. The Coalition is a public-private partnership developed by the CDC Foundation to help CDC make meaningful advances in the prevention, screening and treatment of viral hepatitis.

The Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition has produced a video stories project, Faces of Hepatitis, to support CDC's efforts to raise awareness about the disease and who is at risk. In line with CDC's new testing recommendations, the videos show stories of baby boomers with hepatitis C. Many are unsure of how they were infected with the virus.  Faces of Hepatitis helps illustrate that viral hepatitis is not just one story, or face or voice, but many.

Members of the Coalition have also helped CDC launch Know More Hepatitis, CDC's multimedia campaign to educate healthcare providers and baby boomers about the new testing recommendations. As part of the campaign, CDC developed an online risk assessment tool to help people determine their risk for viral hepatitis. Know More Hepatitis posters, fact sheets, and digital media tools are available online: www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis.

In addition to education activities, members of the Coalition have provided grants to the CDC Foundation to support CDC-led hepatitis research projects. A groundbreaking study called the Chronic Hepatitis Cohort Study (CHeCS) is  the largest observational cohort study of persons in care for viral hepatitis in the U.S. Through the multi-year study, CDC monitors more than 10,000 HCV infected patients  to learn more about disease progression,  clinical management practices, and the impact of care and treatment on patients' health. Moving forward, CDC will use data from the study to evaluate the health impact of the new testing recommendations and to inform future testing, care, and treatment guidelines to ensure that more persons living with viral hepatitis get the help they need.

According to CDC, risk-based screening will continue to be important, but is not sufficient alone.  More than 2 million U.S. baby boomers are infected with hepatitis C – accounting for more than 75 percent of all American adults living with the virus.  Studies show that many baby boomers were infected with the virus decades ago, do not perceive themselves to be at risk, and have never been screened.

CDC estimates one-time hepatitis C testing of baby boomers could identify more than 800,000 additional people with hepatitis C.  And with newly available therapies that can cure up to 75 percent of infections, expanded testing – along with linkage to appropriate care and treatment – would prevent the costly consequences of liver cancer and other chronic liver diseases and save more than 120,000 lives.

About the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition

Learn more about the CDC Foundation's Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition: viralhepatitisaction.org

About Faces of Hepatitis

View Faces of Hepatitis video stories online: viralhepatitisaction.org/faces

Participants in Faces of Hepatitis may be available for comments. Please contact Shannon Easley, CDC Foundation, at 404.273.6054.

About CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis 

Learn more about how CDC saves lives by protecting people from hepatitis: www.cdc.gov/hepatitis