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Baby boomers should be screened for hepatitis C

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted July 1, 2013

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A federal panel joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in calling for one-time screening for the hepatitis C virus among baby boomers.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation to screen all adults born between 1945 and 1965 was published in the June 25 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. It differs slightly from the CDC guidance, which encourages screening for individuals born between 1946 and 1965.

The task force also suggests that physicians test people at high risk of infection. Risk factors include current or past injection drug use, incarceration and being a recipient of a blood transfusion before 1992.

The guidance applies to asymptomatic adults without known liver disease or functional abnormalities. It updates the task force’s 2004 recommendation against routine hepatitis C screening in adults (link).

Researchers assessed studies published since 2004 and focused on evidence gaps that were identified in the previous task force recommendation. They found that one-time screening among baby boomers might identify infected patients at an earlier, more treatable stage of disease.

An estimated 3.2 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C infection, according to the CDC. About 75% of people living with the infection were born from 1945 to 1965, and many are unaware they’re infected, the task force said. Infection with the hepatitis C virus can cause cancer, inflammation and permanent liver damage.

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