Before 1992, blood used in transfusions during emergency and surgical procedures was not tested for viruses. Widespread screening of blood donations didn’t start happening until 1992, meaning those who donated before then could have also been donating more than just their blood – they could have shared diseases like hepatitis c. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control are now asking all Americans in the baby boomer generation to get tested for this potentially liver-destroying disease.
Only about a quarter of those infected with Hep C are able to fight it off naturally, without medical treatment. The rest are suffering from a serious infection, potentially without their knowledge. The virus can gradually scar the liver and lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer, and is the leading cause of liver transplant. It can trigger damage in other parts of the body as well. All told, more than 15,000 Americans die each year from hepatitis C-related illnesses, according to the CDC.
From the article, “CDC to baby boomers: Get tested for hepatitis C:”
A recent Harris Interactive survey of 1,000 baby boomers found other forms of ignorance about hepatitis C. Fewer than 20 percent knew they belonged to the generation most likely to be infected, and only a similar percent were aware it can be cured in many patients.
Also, only about 25 percent said they had been tested, according to the survey, done on behalf of the American Gastroenterological Association and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which makes one of the hepatitis C medications.
Currently, many baby boomers learn of their infection almost by accident, like when they donate blood or get a physical exam for a life insurance policy, said Dr. Ryan Ford, an Emory University physician specializing in hepatitis care.