Beginning January 1, 2014, a New York State law went into effect requiring all patients born between 1945 and 1965 to be tested for Hepatitis C when being cared for at a medical facility. The New York State Department of Health reports that as many as 150,000 New Yorkers may not be aware that they have Hepatitis C.
The test is not currently required in any other state, however, medical experts urge everyone to have the test, particularly those born between 1945 and 1965, as Baby Boomers account for more than 75% of Hepatitis C-infected adults in this country.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease, linked to health problems including:
- liver damage
- cirrhosis of the liver
- liver cancer
How is Hepatitis C spread?
Hepatitis C is contracted when a person comes into contact with the blood of someone who already has the disease. Many cases of Hepatitis C infection occurred in the 1970s and 1980s in patients who received blood transfusions and organ transplants, before widespread testing of the blood supply began in 1992.
People also have been known to contract Hepatitis C from:
- Sharing needles, syringes, or other medical equipment
- Accidental needle-stick injuries
- Being born to a mother infected with Hepatitis C
A person may also have contracted the disease in less common situations, such as:
- Sharing personal care items – such as razors or toothbrushes – that may have traces of blood from an infected person
- Sexual contact with a person who has Hepatitis C
Why should adults be tested for Hepatitis C?
- Baby Boomers are five times as likely to have been infected with Hepatitis C than other age groups
- Complications of Hepatitis C are on the rise, particularly among individuals born between 1945-1965
- The longer a person lives with the disease, the greater their chance of developing serious complications
- Treatment is now available to eliminate the disease from the body and prevent liver damage and other side effects
*source: The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (www.CDC.gov)
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