Center for Liver Disease at UnityPoint Health | Des Moines, Iowa

HEPATITIS C

Why Baby Boomers Should Get Tested


While anyone can get Hepatitis C, more than 75% of adults infected are baby boomers, people born from 1945 through 1965. Most people with Hepatitis C don't know they are infected.  Baby boomers are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C. 

Liver disease, liver cancer, and deaths from Hepatitis C are on the rise. The longer people live with Hepatitis C, the more likely they are to develop serious, life-threatening liver disease. Getting tested can help people learn if they are infected and get them into lifesaving care and treatment. For many people, treatments are available that can cure Hepatitis C and prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.

  • Baby boomers are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C. 

  • Liver disease, liver cancer, and deaths from Hepatitis C are on the rise. 

  • The longer people live with Hepatitis C, the more likely they are to develop serious, life-threatening liver disease. 

CDC recommends that anyone born from 1945 through 1965 gets tested for Hepatitis C.

Why do baby boomers have such high rates of Hepatitis C? 

The reason that baby boomers have high rates of Hepatitis C is not completely understood. Most boomers are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s when rates of Hepatitis C were the highest. Since people with Hepatitis C can live for decades without symptoms, many baby boomers are unknowingly living with an infection they got many years ago. Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person. 

  • Many baby boomers could have gotten infected from contaminated blood and blood products before widespread screening of the blood supply in 1992 and universal precautions were adopted. 

  • Others may have become infected from injecting drugs, even if only once in the past. 

  • Still, many baby boomers do not know how or when they were infected. 

What should baby boomers know about Hepatitis C?

 

Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. Some people who get infected with Hepatitis C are able to clear, or get rid of, the virus, but most people who get infected develop a chronic, or lifelong, infection. Over time, chronic Hepatitis C can cause serious health problems including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death. In fact, Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the leading cause of liver transplants. People with Hepatitis C: 

  • Often have no symptoms 

  • Can live with an infection for decades without feeling sick 

  • Can be successfully treated with medications

How would someone know they have Hepatitis C? 


The only way to know if someone has Hepatitis C is to get tested. Doctors use a blood test, called a Hepatitis C Antibody Test, to find out if a person has ever been infected with Hepatitis C. The Hepatitis C Antibody Test looks for antibodies to the Hepatitis C virus. Antibodies are chemicals released into the bloodstream when someone gets infected. Hepatitis C Antibody Test results. When getting tested for Hepatitis C, ask when and how test results will be shared. The test results can take anywhere from half an hour to several days or weeks to come back. Non-reactive or a negative Hepatitis C Antibody Test. 

  • A non-reactive, or negative, antibody test means that a person does not have Hepatitis C. However, if a person has been recently exposed to the Hepatitis C virus, he or she will need to be tested again. Reactive or a positive Hepatitis C Antibody Test. A reactive, or positive, antibody test means that Hepatitis C antibodies were found in the blood and a person has been infected with the Hepatitis C virus at some point in time. 

  • A reactive antibody test does not necessarily mean a person still has Hepatitis C. 

  • Once people have been infected, they will always have antibodies in their blood. This is true if even if they have cleared the Hepatitis C virus. 
  • A reactive antibody test requires an additional, follow-up test to determine if a person is currently infected with Hepatitis C.