Baby boomers being asked to get checked for hepatitis C

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Hepatitis C testing By Jennifer Thomas Hepatitis C testing By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- There is a new recommendation for baby boomers: Get tested for hepatitis C. More than 3 million Americans have the virus. It's a blood-borne virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation.

"It's not at all unusual that we see people who have had the infection for 30 years or more and just finding out now," said Dr. Richard Manch, chief of hepatology at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center.

One in 30 baby boomers has been infected with the virus.

"It may just cause some fatigue, some weakness, some aches and pains," Manch said. "But as things progress it begins to attack the liver and cause significant inflammation and scarring of the liver and that leads to failure of the liver, jaundice, swelling even liver cancer."

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been urging those at high risk to be tested, they've added baby boomers to the list. They're now recommending those born between 1945 and1965 get a one-time blood test to screen for hepatitis C.

"We think with these new recommendations that there will be about 120,000 lives saved," Manch said. "One of the things the CDC was worried about is there is a lack of information about hepatitis C and even a lot of healthcare providers don't know it's generally a curable disease."

Manch said the earlier the diagnosis, the better.

"We now have the tools with the treatments that we have presently to cure as many as 75 percent of people with hepatitis C," Manch continued.

It’s a simple blood test that can save lives.

"Just like cholesterol screening and blood pressure screening, you just throw in a blood test for hepatitis C," Manch said.

St. Joseph's is doing a lot when it comes to treating the disease. They have programs set up in rural areas across the state.

For more information visit www.stjosephsphx.org.