If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you're automatically at high risk of hepatitis C infection. Effective treatment is available, so get tested.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Baby boomers — people born between 1945 and 1965 — should get screened for hepatitis C if they haven't already done so.

Why baby boomers? Numbers tell the story:

  • More than 75 percent of adults infected with hepatitis C virus are in their 50s and 60s.
  • Baby boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than are adults in other age groups.
  • Hepatitis C is often a silent infection. At least 45 percent of people with hepatitis C are unaware that they're infected.
  • Cirrhosis caused by chronic hepatitis C is the top reason for liver transplantation in the United States. Nearly 40 percent of liver transplants in adults are due to hepatitis C.
  • Hepatitis C-related illness, including liver failure and liver cancer, claims more than 15,000 adult lives in the United States each year. Most of those who die of these causes are baby boomers.

You might be nervous about getting tested for hepatitis C, but the good news is that if you are infected, treatment is available. The number of people cured, defined as having no detectable hepatitis C virus in their blood after treatment, has increased substantially with newer treatments.

Soon, many people with hepatitis C should have access to a wider range of antiviral drugs that act directly on the virus. These drugs generally take less time to work and cause fewer side effects than do treatments typically prescribed just a few years ago.

Given these developments, it makes a lot of sense for baby boomers to get screened for hepatitis C. They'll benefit from treatment that has a good chance of preventing premature death from liver disease.

Mar. 25, 2014