Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) (07.28.2013)
Despite increased hepatitis C virus (HCV) incidence among baby boomers, most people ages 48–68 did not know that their age group’s risk of HCV infection was five times higher than that of other groups, according to a survey of 400 Miami-Dade and Broward County, Fla., residents conducted by pharmaceutical manufacturer Genentech, Inc. Sixty-two percent of survey participants reported never having an HCV test.
State health officials estimated that 40 percent of Florida’s 300,000 chronic HCV cases occurred among people born between 1945 and 1965, and two-thirds to three-fourths of Floridians with HCV remained undiagnosed. Health officials have documented 1,168 HCV cases in Palm Beach County thus far in 2013, compared to 722 during the same time period in 2012. Broward County has reported 1,077 cases so far this year, compared to 683 in 2012. Forty-five percent of this year’s Palm Beach cases and 60 percent of this year’s Broward cases occurred among people age 50 and older.
HCV passes from one person to another through blood-to-blood contact, as in sexual intercourse or sharing needles. Baby boomers are more vulnerable because of sexual freedom and drug use during the 1960s, and because blood supply testing did not become standard until 1992.
In 2012, CDC recommended a one-time hepatitis test for all baby boomers. Florida Department of Health Spokesperson Tim O’Connor stated that increased HCV incidence resulted from a requirement that all testing laboratories report positive HCV test results to the health department.
Dr. Kalyan Ram Bhamidimarri, a transplant hepatologist and gastroenterologist at the University of Miami Hospital, recommended that primary care physicians stress the importance of HCV testing, especially for baby boomers. HCV testing requires a simple blood test that is covered by most insurance policies or available at low cost or free from prevention groups or nonprofit organizations. Medicare does not cover testing unless symptoms require testing for diagnosis.