Health Officials: Hepatitis C Test Needed for MN Baby Boomers

Updated: 05/18/2013 12:23 PM By: Maricella Miranda

MGN Online
MGN Online

Attention baby boomers - have you been tested for hepatitis C lately?

The Minnesota Department of Health is reminding people born from 1945 through 1965 to be tested for hepatitis C. The reminder comes for national hepatitis awareness month.

Currently, about 39,000 people statewide are living with the virus.

Hepatitis C causes serious liver diseases, including liver cancer, and is the leading cause of liver transplants in the country, the health department reported. The virus is usually spread by blood, through sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs.

Before widespread screening of the blood supply, the virus was unknowingly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Among the baby boomer population - 1 in 30 have hepatitis C and don't know it, the health department reported.

More than 15,000 Americans - most of them baby boomers, die each year from hepatitis C-related illnesses, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. The deaths have been increasing steadily for more than a decade, and they're projected to grow significantly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one-time hepatitis C testing of the baby boomer population could identify more than 800,000 new cases. New therapies could cure up to 75 percent of infections, and testing and treatment could save 120,000 lives.