Testing baby boomers could help identify more than 800,000 new cases of hepatitis C and address the largely preventable consequences of the condition.

Baby boomers—individuals born between 1946 and 1964—are at a higher risk of hepatitis C (HCV) infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Being born during this time period makes individuals more at risk for the disease, because many of these individuals received blood products or organ transplants in the 70’s and 80’s, before HCV testing became routine.

The CDC recently issued draft guidelines proposing that all baby boomers get a one-time test for HCV. They estimate that 1 in 30 baby boomers has been infected with the virus and is unaware of his or her status. Currently, more than 75% of Americans living with the virus are in this age group.

Despite the fact that baby boomers are 5 times more likely to be infected than other adults, many boomers do not consider themselves to be in a high-risk population, according to studies. When a person is infected with HCV, they often manifest no symptoms. If left untreated, the condition can lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis, and other chronic liver diseases.

With this initiative, the CDC hopes to catch HCV cases before they develop into more serious problems. “Identifying these hidden infections early will allow more baby boomers to receive care and treatment, before they develop life-threatening liver disease,” said Kevin Fenton, MD, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, in a press release.

This is a crucial time to seek testing, as newly available therapies—Incivek (telaprevir) from Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc and Merck & Co's Victrelis (boceprevir)—can provide a sustained virologic response in up to 75% of infections. All-oral therapies from Gilead Sciences Inc and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co are also in development.

To help your patients assess their risk for viral hepatitis, direct them to this site from the CDC:
Know More Hepatitis

To share information with your patients on hepatitis C and its risk factors, direct to them to this video: