Two thirds of those currently infected with Hepatitis C are Baby Boomers. That's a few million people.
Only about a fourth of these people know they are infected.
As members of this generation age, the effects of years, even decades, of undiagnosed infection are showing up. It's not a pretty picture.
Cirrhosis, primary liver cancer, end stage liver disease and the need for a liver transplant are possible outcomes of long term Hepatitis C infection.
Hepatitis C can be treated and cured. Treatment is undergoing revolutionary improvement right now.
People with Hepatitis C often notice few if any symptoms, even after years of infection. When symptoms do appear, they are often mild and general, like fatigue or a bit of nausea. These symptoms are often overlooked or attributed to other causes.
People who have Hepatitis C usually: had a blood transfusion, organ transplant, or hemodialysis before 1992; received clotting factors before 1989; or shared needles or "works" to inject street drugs (even just once!).
Medical workers can get Hepatitis C through needle sticks or related occupational exposure.
Less common ways people get Hepatitis C include: lax medical practices; unsanitary tatooing or body piercing; sexual contact (usually only if injury and blood are involved); and intimate household contact (shared toothbrushes or other any other contact involving even trace amounts of blood).
Recent reports in the media have highlighted troubling outbreaks of Hepatitis C (as well as Hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS) transmitted in medical settings such as outpatient clinics. Improper reuse or inadequate sterilization of
syringes, endoscopy equipment, and other medical instruments have caused outbreaks of Hepatitis C and other diseases. While these medical errors are not common, they are especially troubling and highlight the need for greater vigilance on the part of practitioners and, possibly, improved regulation of medical facilities.
Doctors do not routinely screen patients for Hepatitis C. Basic blood tests do not provide any direct evidence of the virus. Blood test may reveal evidence of liver damage, but these results are frequently overlooked by primary care physicians.
There's only one way to be sure you do not have Hepatitis C. If you have any doubt about your status, ask your doctor for a Hepatitis C test.