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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498

Date: October 12, 2012


Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) advises Delaware's baby boomers to speak to their doctor about getting a one-time blood test for the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). People born from 1945 through 1965 currently account for more than 75 percent of adults infected with the Hepatitis C virus in the U.S. and are five times more likely to be infected than other adults.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated their testing recommendations for Hepatitis C. The recommendations come in response to a national upsurge in liver disease and deaths related to Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants and primary liver cancer, which is the fastest-rising cause of cancer-related deaths. Each year, more than 15,000 Americans, most of them baby boomers, die from Hepatitis C-related illness, such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. Unfortunately, over the last decade, deaths have been increasing steadily. Without expanded access to HCV testing, care, and treatment, mortality among those living with HCV infection will continue to rise."

Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person. Many baby boomers could have been infected from contaminated blood, blood products, or an organ transplant before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992. 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.

Most people (70-80 percent) with acute Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. Some may have mild to severe symptoms soon after being infected, including fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice - a yellow color in the skin or eyes.

Individuals born from 1945-1965 should receive a one-time Hepatitis C blood test as part of standard medical care. Testing is the first step in linking HCV-infected people to care. New treatments are available that can cure up to 75 percent of infections.

CDC estimates that implementation of these recommendations will identify more than 800,000 additional people nationwide with Hepatitis C. Linking these individuals to appropriate care and treatment would prevent the costly consequences of liver cancer and other chronic liver diseases and ultimately save more than 120,000 lives. For more information or to report a case, call DPH's Viral Hepatitis program at 302-744-1050. Complete recommendations are available at MMWR August 16, 2012 / Vol. 61.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.