NVHR Press Release on New CDC Report

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For Immediate Release:
May 7, 2013
Contact: Alaynah Boyd
(202) 585-2133

New CDC Report: Most People Reported with Hepatitis C are Baby Boomers and Many May Not Receive Complete Testing for the Virus

Rates of hepatitis C highest among baby boomers, need for testing remains critical

The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) said today that newly released data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a Vital Signs report underscores the severe impact of hepatitis C among baby boomers (individuals born from 1945 through 1965). Baby boomers accounted for 67 percent of all reported hepatitis C cases and 72 percent of all reported deaths among persons with hepatitis C. The CDC recommends that all baby boomers get tested for hepatitis C.

The new CDC data comes from enhanced hepatitis C surveillance in eight areas across the country. The findings indicate that half of those identified as having a positive Hepatitis C antibody blood test reported to the health department also had the appropriate follow-up testing to determine if they are still infected. The other half did not have a follow-up test reported. Without the hepatitis C follow-up test, individuals do not know if they still have hepatitis C and cannot get the care and treatment they need. In this study, deaths were higher among those who did not have a follow-up test reported to the health department.

“More than three million Americans are living with hepatitis C, most of whom are baby boomers, and as many as three out of four individuals with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection,” said NVHR Executive Director Martha Saly. “It is critical that boomers and other populations at increased risk for hepatitis C get tested, and that they receive appropriate testing, including a follow up test when needed. Without appropriate testing, those with hepatitis C are less likely to learn about their infection and get the critical care and treatment that they need in order to prevent cancer, and other serious health consequences.”

Left untreated, hepatitis C can cause serious liver damage, including liver cancer – the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. In fact, deaths from hepatitis C-related illness, such as liver failure and liver cancer, have nearly doubled over the past decade, now accounting for more than 15,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

CDC estimates that testing baby boomers for hepatitis C could identify more than 800,000 additional people with hepatitis C and save more than 120,000 lives.

“We call hepatitis C a ‘silent epidemic,’ because it often has no symptoms and can cause serious damage, while going undetected for decades,” said Saly. “The good news is that treatments are available that can eliminate the hepatitis C virus from the body, but getting tested is the critical first step to saving lives.”

According to the updated guidance, individuals tested for hepatitis C should receive a screening blood test, called an antibody test, in order to determine if the person has ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus. For those with a positive hepatitis C antibody test, a follow-up test is needed to determine if a person is still infected. In order to help ensure that patients are properly diagnosed, it is critical that providers conduct follow-up testing to ensure they receive life-saving care and treatment.


About NVHR
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