California lawmakers are
currently considering legislation that would promote awareness by
requiring primary care physicians to offer a hepatitis C test to
patients born between 1945 and 1965. These baby boomers are five times
more likely to be infected.
More than 500,000 Californians are infected with hepatitis C, yet the vast majority of those infected don’t realize it.
Even though hepatitis C is the leading cause of catastrophic liver
damage, cirrhosis and liver cancer, it’s estimated that up to 75 percent
of infected Americans do not even know they have the disease. Because
of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that
deaths due to this blood-borne virus will double or even triple in the
next 20 years.
The significant gap between the disease’s progression and diagnosis
is largely due to the fact that people can live for years — even
decades — without feeling sick, while testing for the virus is not
nearly as common as it should be.