Who Should Get Hepatitis C Tested?

Resaved Dr TI heard that we should be tested for hepatitis C. Does that mean everyone?

(edited from the CDC) Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an increasing cause of illness in the United States.  Untreated over many decades approximately 5% of people with chronic hepatitis C will die of complications such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.  Many persons with HCV infection do not recall or report having any specific risk factors such as injection-drug use, blood transfusion before July 1992 when a blood test was developed to protect the blood supply, having received chronic hemodialysis, being born to an HCV-infected mother, intranasal drug use, acquiring a tattoo in an unregulated establishment, being incarcerated, being stuck by a needle (e.g., in health care, emergency medical, home, or public safety settings) and multiple (>20) sexual partners.

At its peak in the 1960s there were a quarter of a million new cases per year in the United States.  Presently there are less than 20 thousand new cases a year.  The prevalence of HCV among persons born during 1945–1965 is 3.25% or five times higher than among adults born in other years.  With the advent of new therapies that can eliminate hepatitis C the CDC has proposed one-time testing for persons born during 1945–1965.

The bottom line:  if you have any of the risk factors listed above and have never been tested for hepatitis C you should consider a one time test.  If you were born between 1945 and 1965 your chances of carrying hepatitis C are low but much higher than in more recent years and you also might consider a one time test.  If you are a blood donor you do not need to be tested as you are tested each time you donate blood.  We can include testing for hepatitis C with your routine physical blood work if you request it.

Dr T


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