Millions may not know they are infected, but widespread testing is up for debate
Doctors for years have urged people with very specific risk factors —
a history of intravenous drug use, needlestick injuries, or a medical
record that includes a blood transfusion or organ transplant— to be
tested for hepatitis C.
But now, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all baby boomers be tested
for the disease, saying that people born between 1945 and 1965 have the
highest rate of infection and could benefit from early treatment.
But another organization, the US Preventive Services Task Force, last month
issued a draft recommendation suggesting
doctors only “consider” screening all baby boomers. The group, a
government-appointed panel of doctors and health policy experts, gave
the practice of universal screening a C grade, indicating that testing
an entire generation may have little benefit.
The conflicting advice has upset some advocates of broader hepatitis C
screening, who say the recommendation undermines efforts to respond to a
“silent epidemic.” An increasing number of people are dying from the
disease, and treatments, while costly, are improving.