Thursday, August 30, 2012

Local and state experts say CDC's new recommendation on Hepatitis C screening makes sense

While the specific cut-off dates vary slightly by source, U.S. baby boomers were more than 75 million people born in the two decades on the heels of World War II. The CDC says members of this massive generation accounts for more than 75 percent of U.S. adults living with Hepatitis C, some of who may have contracted the virus through transfusions and other medical procedures before the widespread blood supply screening started in 1992.

"There was a time not very long ago when Hepatitis C was not a known virus ... and therefore there was no test for it," said Kevin Cranston. director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Plus, he added, "the caution around blood exposure really became part of the American consciousness in response to HIV."

The CDC says its expanded recommendations could diagnose 800,000 more Hepatitis C cases and potentially save more than 120,000 lives.
"I think it makes a lot of sense from a population standpoint," said Dr. Paul S. Sepe, a gastroenterologist with Hawthorn Medical Associates.

Sepe said he'll still individualize his practice, likely refraining from screening absolutely every baby boomer who enters his office. But he said the new recommendations will increase his awareness and will lead him to test people more frequently.
Although some Hepatitis C cases might clear on their own, chronic disease can lead to what Sepe described as a "complicated cascade" of problems, including inflammation of the liver, followed by the gradual development of scar tissue.
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