Experts recommend that all Baby Boomers be screened for the infection hepatitis C.
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Allison: It was found that among 383 baby boomers presenting to a large urban emergency department in New York City the prevalence of HCV antibody reactivity was 7.3%. Only four patients were successfully linked to care and only one patient was started on HCV treatment. The study highlights the possibility that there may be problems in linking patients to care from the ED compared to other clinical settings such as primary care and inpatient settings. It was concluded that only with strategies to improve linkage to care could a screening program for baby boomers be recommended in the ED where the study was carried out.
The study additionally had a qualitative component and, via structured interviews, evaluated knowledge about HCV infection amongst baby boomers presenting to the ED. Overall knowledge was good but some misconceptions about transmission persisted and many patients mistakenly believed that there is a vaccine for hepatitis C.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr Allison: Everyone born between 1945-1965 living in the US should be screened at least once for hepatitis C virus infection with an HCV antibody test followed by a confirmatory HCV nucleic acid test if the antibody test is positive. The era of HCV treatment options with low cure rates and multiple side effects is firmly in the past. New drugs (DAAs) with high cure rates and minimal side effects are now available though cost remains a barrier to access to these drugs. Besides primary care and inpatient settings, the emergency department may represent an opportunity for screening if barriers to linkage to care can be overcome. Efforts should continue to educate baby boomers about their risk for chronic HCV infection and the need for screening.