Known as the ‘silent killer,’ hepatitis C can cause serious damage to your liver without showing symptoms.
WHILE MOST OF THE estimated 3.5 million people in the U.S. infected with hepatitis C are baby boomers, the virus is spreading at a greater rate among young people, according for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, the highest rate of new hepatitis C infections is among people between ages 20 and 29, according to a 2017 CDC press statement. Increasing IV drug use propelled by the opioid epidemic is the primary factor fueling this increase among young people, according to the CDC; sharing infected needles is a key mode of transmission. Research suggests the rate of hepatitis C infections is also rising among women of child-bearing age. Hepatitis C is associated with cirrhosis, which is potentially fatal, so it’s important to get screened and treated.
If you should be diagnosed with hepatitis C, whatever your age, here are steps you should take:
- Don’t panic.
- Don’t obsess about when and how you were infected.
- Stop drinking alcohol.
- Talk about it.
Baby Boomers at Highest Risk of Hepatitis C
For an array of reasons, baby boomers – defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as people born between 1946 and 1964 – are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults, according to the CDC. Overall, baby boomers account for more than 75 percent of all of the people in the U.S. infected with the virus, according to the American Liver Foundation. A primary reason baby boomers are at higher risk of hepatitis C infection is timing, says infectious diseases expert Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, chairman of the Department of Medicine and hospital epidemiologist at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, New York. He’s also a spokesperson for the Infectious Disease Society of America. Here’s how the timing worked against baby boomers: Researchers discovered hepatitis C in 1989. Before the discovery, doctors referred to the virus as non-A and non-B hepatitis, and associated it with blood transfusions.
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