One in 30 Baby Boomers Has Hepatitis C
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - One-in-30 baby boomers has Hepatitis C, and most don't even know it. It is a chronic viral infection that affects about 3.5 million people, and is ten times more infectious than HIV.
Bob Rice, a former Hep C patient, was diagnosed in 1992. After several failed treatments, he had a liver transplant in 2010. He now is cured of the disease, but said it was a long, hard path to get there.
Rice said he encourages anyone born between 1945 and 1965 to be tested, because if it's caught early, the hepatitis cure rate is about 99 percent. He said he wishes he had known his diagnosis early on.
"Towards the end, I thought I was going to die,” Rice said. "You know, they told me I needed a liver transplant. They're very hard to get. I was one of the lucky ones. I'm here for a reason, and I know that today. And hopefully this is the reason, to try and educate people."
Those at risk for the disease include anyone who was exposed to blood or blood products before 1992, those who have body piercings or tattoos, anyone who has used IV drugs, and even those who have had manicures or pedicures. Rice said participating in boxing or rugby also has been designated as a risk.
Hepititis C can lead to liver disease and cancer, and often is fatal.
Dr. Douglas Dieterich, professor of medicine in the Division of Liver Diseases at of Mount Sinai Hospital, said everyone should be tested for Hep C, but the screening isn't normally offered. So, he said he encourages people to ask for it - even if they don't have symptoms.
"The most common symptom is no symptom,” Dieterich said. "Most people don't have symptoms until the liver is really almost beyond repair."
According to the CDC, more than 30,000 people are diagnosed with Hepatitis C each year, and about 8-in-10 develop chronic infections.