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Boomers: Get screened for hepatitis C

hepatitis C test Not enough Americans born between 1945 and 1965 are getting tested for the hepatitis C virus (HCV), say American Cancer Society researchers.

About 3.5 million Americans are chronically infected. An estimated 60 percent of infected people are baby boomers who don’t know they have the virus. In 2013, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that baby boomers get screened for HCV, which is a leading cause of long-term illnesses such as cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.

HCV, which often causes no symptoms, is spread through contact with the blood of an infected person. Before blood screening began in 1992, blood transfusions and organ donations were a source of infection. Currently, the most common methods of transmission include through sharing needles and syringes, getting a needlestick injury in a health care setting or being born to an infected mother.

While HCV medications are available, there’s no vaccine to prevent the disease. Follow these recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce your risk of infection:

  • Don’t share razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes or glucose monitors.
  • Practice safe sex by knowing your partner and using a condom.
  • Make sure a facility is licensed before getting a tattoo or body piercing. You can research local licensing and safety regulations by contacting your town, county or state health department.

If you’re a baby boomer, speak with your provider about getting tested for HCV at your next scheduled appointment.