The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finalized its recommendations regarding the screening of hepatitis C among individuals born between 1945 and 1965. These guidelines may affect the healthcare marketing of disease screening tools, as well as medications to treat the condition.
Between 75 and 85 percent of individuals who contract the hepatitis C virus develop a chronic infection, which puts them at risk for cirrhosis, liver cancer and other complications. In 1998, the main risk factors for the disease included intravenous drug use, high-risk sex and transfusions with tainted blood. Since then, the CDC has developed guidelines to screen for the virus among individuals who were likely to have these risk factors.
However, the agency also identified additional variables associated with infection, such as unsafe tattoo practices, being born to a mother who has the virus and chronic hemodialysis. Furthermore, CDC data from 2012 indicated that 45 percent of individuals who have hepatitis C did not recall having exposure to any of these risk factors.
A disproportionate number of hepatitis C infections occur among baby boomers. Although people born between 1945 and 1965 make up only 27 percent of the general population, they also account for 75 percent of all hepatitis C infections and 73 percent of deaths associated with the disease.
In order to address this disparity, the new CDC guidelines, which were first proposed and opened to public comment in May of 2012, recommend that all people born during this time period undergo a one-time hepatitis C screen.
"With the advent of new therapies that can halt disease progression and provide a virologic cure (i.e., sustained viral clearance following completion of treatment) in most persons, targeted testing and linkage to care for infected persons in this birth cohort is expected to reduce HCV-related morbidity and mortality," reads the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released Aug. 17, 2012.
Those who test positive for the virus may also be referred to alcohol use screening and intervention.