Posts Tagged ‘Hepatitis C’

CDC Wants Baby Boomers Tested for Hepatitis C

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

A latent legacy of baby boomers’ youthful antics could be hepatitis C. The number of boomers dying from a “silent epidemic” of hepatitis C infections is increasing so quickly that federal officials are planning a nationwide push for widespread testing.  Seventy-five percent of the estimated 3.2 million people who have chronic hepatitis C — and a similar number of those who die from the ailment are baby boomers.  Hepatitis C deaths nearly doubled between 1999 and 2007 to more than 15,000, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study.  Hepatitis C is the primary infectious cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and is the most common reason for liver transplants, according to the CDC.  In 2007, deaths from the disease surpassed those caused by HIV, and the numbers are expected to increase.

Baby boomers typically became infected in their teens and 20s, either via blood transfusions or with experimental injection drug use. Hepatitis C is often asymptomatic while it damages the liver, according to the CDC.  “It’s a bold action that’s become necessary because there’s a large population that’s unaware of their illness, becoming ill, and dying in an era of effective treatment,” said John W. Ward, director of the division of viral hepatitis at the CDC.

One in 30 baby boomers have hepatitis C, according to the CDC.  A single test of the members of that generation has the potential to identify 800,000 people with hepatitis C, which would prevent liver cancer and perhaps save 120,000 lives.  “We believe this cost-effective public health approach can help protect the health of an entire generation of Americans,” Ward said.  “It’s the fastest-growing cause of death in the U.S. and hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer here.   “Most cancer deaths are going down and this is one of the few that continues to escalate.”

Many baby boomers have a potentially dangerous ‘it’s not me’ mentality about hepatitis C,  and this survey underscores how poorly most people in that generation understand that risk factors do apply to them,” said Ira M. Jacobson, M.D., AGAF, chief, division of gastroenterology and hepatology and professor of medicine, The Joan Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University, and physician co-advisor to the , American Gastroenterological Association’s (AGA) I.D. Hep C campaign. “Given the potentially deadly consequences of allowing hepatitis C to go undiagnosed, the AGA urges all baby boomers to talk to their doctors about getting tested.”

“The disease can’t be treated if people don’t know they are infected. With treatment, the chance of a cure is greater than ever,” said Michael Ryan, M.D., clinical professor of medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School, practicing gastroenterologist with Digestive and Liver Disease Specialists of Norfolk, VA, and physician co-advisor to AGA’s I.D. Hep C campaign.  “I see every day the devastation hepatitis C can cause, especially to those who have lived with the disease for years without knowing it.  Baby boomers shouldn’t wait – they should talk to their doctors today about getting this simple test.”

CDC Sets Six “Winnable Battles” for Americans’ Health

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

 CDC sets six health priorities as "winnable battles". The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified six priorities to keep the nation healthy – or what its director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, calls “winnable battles”.  The six are smoking, AIDS, obesity/nutrition, teen pregnancy, auto injuries and healthcare infections. Although some healthcare experts consider this a bold move on Frieden’s part, others are angry that the six take priority over certain deadly diseases.

Bruce Burkett, past president of the National Hepatitis C Advocacy Council, believes that hepatitis B and C are “badly neglected” by the CDC.  “I was very disappointed that it wasn’t on there.  This is gong to affect millions by not being on there.”  Jeff Levi, who heads the research group Trust for America’s Health, also expressed concern, saying “I think everyone is going to be cautious in how the focus on winnable battles is balanced against other areas” that are considered crucial and may not be as easy to treat.

Frieden disagrees, noting that proven programs can save lives and reduce the risk of these health problems.  “In each of these areas, we know what to do to make a difference and we need to do it to a much greater extent,” Frieden said.  Additionally, the CDC has no intention of ignoring its other public health mission.  For one thing, it’s impossible, given that Congress directs the agency’s funding to certain causes.  Less than one-tenth of one percent of CDC’s $6.6 billion annual budget is discretionary and can be invested in the winnable battles initiative.

State health authorities are in agreement with Frieden’s priorities and will be happy to receive grant money from the CDC.  “We’re in the position of focusing pretty much on what we can get federal funds for,” said Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.  Humble believes that Frieden’s six winnable priorities are long overdue and welcomes the opportunity to better sell health improvement to Arizonans.  “You can’t market if your message is too diffuse.  If we’re all on the same page and working in the same direction, we can get a lot more momentum,” Humble said.