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National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable Hails U.S. Preventive Services Task Force for New Hepatitis C Testing Recommendation
Contact: Martha Saly
National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable Hails U.S. Preventive Services Task Force for New Hepatitis C Testing Recommendation USPSTF Recommendation to Test Individuals Born From 1945-1965 for Hepatitis C Will Save Lives June 24, 2013, Washington, D.C. – The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) today commended the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) for releasing updated hepatitis C screening recommendations to test all people born from 1945 to 1965. Individuals born between these years have the highest rates of chronic viral hepatitis C and represent 75% of the more than 4 million cases of hepatitis C in the United States. “This may be the single most important development in the more than ten years that I have worked in hepatitis advocacy,” said Martha Saly, Executive Director of NVHR. “With the release of the updated USPSTF hepatitis C screening recommendation, we have a tremendous opportunity to save lives by diagnosing the people who are most likely to have hepatitis C and linking them to care.” In an update to its previous recommendations, USPSTF now endorses one-time screening of hepatitis C infection among asymptomatic adults born from 1945 to 1965 (“Baby Boomers”). The endorsement by USPSTF is aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation that people born from 1945 to 1965 should receive a one-time blood test for hepatitis C. In its revised guidelines, USPSTF also recommends risk-based screening among injection drug users and others at increased risk for hepatitis C. The vast majority of people with hepatitis C do not know they are infected and are at greatly increased risk for advanced liver disease, liver cancer and death. According to the CDC, if everyone born between 1945 and 1965 was tested for hepatitis C, more than 800,000 cases could be identified, and up to 121,000 deaths associated with hepatitis C could be avoided.
“This recommendation represents an essential step to move forward on our odyssey to bring the best medical care to patients,” said Dr. Robert Gish, Medical Director, Hepatology, University of California San Diego Medical Systems and NVHR steering committee member. “It will also lessen the stigma that discourages patients from disclosing past risks and help to prevent liver disease and liver cancer that can be the consequence of being undiagnosed.”
Often called a “silent” epidemic, deaths from hepatitis C are likely to grow in the coming years, especially among people who have been unknowingly infected for thirty to forty years. According to the CDC, if the people who are currently infected with hepatitis C do not receive care, 1.76 million will develop cirrhosis of the liver, approximately 400,000 will develop liver cancer and approximately 1 million will die of related complications between the mid 2020’s and mid 2030’s.
Fortunately, more effective drugs with shorter treatment regimens are now available to those infected with chronic hepatitis C. In light of this, NVHR commends USPSTF for removing barriers around testing so that those who are at risk for hepatitis C can learn their status and can be linked to life-saving treatment.
The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) is a coalition of more than 200 public, private and voluntary organizations dedicated to reducing the incidence of infection, morbidity and mortality from viral hepatitis in the United States. For more information, visit www.nvhr.org.