If You’re a Baby Boomer, It’s Time for Your Hepatitis C Screening
As you age, it can seem like you’re asked to undergo more frequent medical testing. However, there’s one test that you absolutely shouldn’t skip if you’re a baby boomer: a hepatitis C screening. It’s a simple blood test that can safeguard your health and may even save your life.
More than three million baby boomers – people born between the years 1945 and 1965 – are currently infected with hepatitis C and many of them don’t know it. It’s easy to live with the disease for a very long time without experiencing any symptoms; unfortunately, when symptoms start, much of the damage has already been done. This is why screening is so essential.
Why Are Boomers at Greater Risk?
The majority of baby boomers were likely infected with the hepatitis C virus sometime during the 1960s through the 1980s. During this period, the universal precautions that hospitals take to make sure infections don’t spread through blood and other bodily fluids were still evolving.
Additionally, we didn’t know as much about the proper preventive measures needed to stop the spread of infections such as hepatitis C through sexual contact and the sharing of needles among IV drug users. As a result, baby boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults.
Hepatitis C and Your Liver
Hepatitis C is a chronic liver infection caused by the hepatitis virus. It doesn’t go away on its own and can lead to serious problems like cirrhosis and liver cancer. If left untreated, it can eventually lead to liver failure, a liver transplant, and even death.
Fortunately, knowing you have hepatitis C helps you combat these potentially deadly outcomes by receiving the appropriate medical treatment. The most common treatment approach is a combination of antiviral medications designed to help your body fight off the infection, combined with regular blood tests to monitor how well your liver is functioning.
The Hepatitis Screening Test
The hepatitis screening test is a simple blood test that can be performed in your doctor’s office or at a clinic. The test searches your blood for the presence of hepatitis C antibodies, which would indicate that you’ve been infected with the virus at some point in your life.
If your test results come back as “non-reactive,” this means that no antibodies were found and you likely do not have hepatitis C. However, there is a small chance that you could have been exposed to the virus so recently that the antibodies are not able to be detected yet, so your doctor may recommend a second test to be sure.
If your test results are “reactive,” it means that you currently have the virus or had it at some point in your life. At this point, you will need another, more detailed test to determine if the virus is currently active in your body.
Hepatitis C is not a disease you want to take lightly, since every year more than 15,000 deaths are attributed to complications from the virus. It’s better to know your status and get the treatment you need than to take a chance – especially if you’re a baby boomer.