On the eve of the first National Hepatitis Testing Day (May 19), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all U.S. baby boomers get a one-time test for the hepatitis.

According to the CDC, one in 30 baby boomers—those born from 1945 through 1965—has been infected with hepatitis C. Most do not know they are infected.

Hepatitis C causes serious liver diseases including liver cancer, which is the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related deaths, and the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.

The CDC believes this approach will address the largely preventable consequences of this disease, especially in light of newly available therapies that can cure up to 75 percent of infections. More than 2 million U.S. baby boomers are infected with hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C can damage the liver for many years with few noticeable symptoms. More than 15,000 Americans, most of them baby boomers, die each year from hepatitis C-related illness, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Current CDC guidelines call for testing only individuals with certain known risk factors for hepatitis C infection. But studies find that many baby boomers do not perceive themselves to be at risk and are not being tested.

CDC estimates one-time hepatitis C testing of baby boomers could identify more than 800,000 additional people with hepatitis C. This could prevent the costly consequences of liver cancer and other chronic liver diseases and save more than 120,000 lives.

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