Following an eight-site study, CDC recommends that all people who test positive for hepatitis C virus (HCV) also should have an HCV RNA test to find out whether they have cleared the virus or they still have it. Approximately 20 percent of HCV-infected people get well without treatment. Since HCV has few symptoms, infected people may not realize they are sick for many years. Untreated HCV, which causes 15,000 deaths each year, can lead to liver damage and liver cancer, the “fastest-growing cause of cancer-related deaths” in the United States.
CDC also recommends that all American baby boomers, people born between the years 1945 to 1965, have an HCV test. CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH reported that most of the HCV-infected people identified in the eight-site study (67.2 percent) were baby boomers. This cohort also comprised the majority (72 percent) of HCV-related deaths. Approximately 3 million American adults have HCV, according to CDC, although up to 75 percent of this number do not realize they have the virus.
Frieden advised that new HCV treatments are more effective in curing the infection and preventing transmission of the virus.
The full report, “Vital Signs: Evaluation of Hepatitis C Virus Infection Testing and Reporting—Eight U.S. Sites, 2005–2011,” was published online in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm62e0507a1.htm.