Liver experts: Baby boomers especially should be tested for Hepatitis C
Experts at Montefiore Medical Center are urging the general public to be tested for Hepatitis C, especially baby boomers that may be at high risk from past exposure to the virus.
According to the liver specialists, adults born between1946-1964 are at higher risk for the disease from exposure to tainted blood, tattooing and drug sharing with needles that may have occurred decades ago.
Hepatitis C is more likely to occur in minorities, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and African-Americans and is newly diagnosed in 35,000 to 185,000 people in the United States each year.
Worldwide, there are 180 million cases of the disease, with an estimated 3-4 million new cases diagnosed each year.
"This disease has grown to epidemic proportions, with 350,000 people around the world dying from Hepatitis C-related liver disease," said Milan Kinkhabwala, MD, Chief, Division of Transplantation at the Montefiore Einstein Center for Transplantation.
But it is called the 'silent killer' because many people don't even know they have it. This condition can be asymptomatic for decades and then present itself when it has already severely damaged the liver."
The liver specialists from Montefiore Medical Center recommend a blood test that can easily detect the presence of Hepatitis C. before permanent liver damage occurs. Early detection and treatment leads to the best outcomes.
Kinkhabwala said, “The blood test is essential to detecting Hepatitis C, because now there are ways to treat the condition, and even reverse damage to the liver."
Ilan Wolkoff, MD, Professor of Medicine and of Anatomy and Structural Biology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University explains newer medications have the potential to clear the virus from the body, “almost doubling the cure rate of the disease."
There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, making it important to get early treatment.
Two new anti-viral oral medications, boceprevir and teleprevir, were approved by the FDA approval in May 2011. Both of the drugs are designed to boost standard Hepatitis C treatment with pegylated interferon alpha and oral rivavrin.
Treating the virus can be difficult from side effects of the medications.
Getting a blood test for Hepatitis C, if you think you could be at risk can half the treatment time needed to clear the virus. Severe side effects, include anemia, depression, fatigue, fever and headache.