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Boomers a prime group to be tested for hepatitis C

While a simple blood test may be the easiest way to check for infections, many baby boomers miss an opportunity for early intervention for a potentially debilitating liver disease.

While a simple blood test may be the easiest way to check for infections, many baby boomers miss an opportunity for early intervention for a potentially debilitating liver disease.

It’s because they don’t understand the need for it.

Among the fastest-growing segment of patients with positive hepatitis C diagnoses, baby boomers – or those born between 1946 and 1964 – are more likely to dismiss the need for blood work to discover if they are infected, which makes these adults less likely to ask for the test.

“Nationally, about 1.5 percent of people have hepatitis C, but those who were born between 1945 and 1965 have a double prevalence of about 3 percent. Baby boomers represent the largest subset of patients,” said Dr. Adam Peyton. Peyton is a gastroenterologist with Eastern Pennsylvania Gastroenterology and Liver Specialists PC, in Salisbury Township.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus or infection that affects the liver and its ability to function. Those infected may not have symptoms during the early stages, and therefore may not realize they have been exposed and might need treatment, he said. Long term, untreated infections can lead to liver disease, cirrhosis and death, Peyton said.

Missed work time, sky-high health care costs, a diminished quality of life and playing Russian roulette with vital organ functioning are the probable results of eschewing an early diagnosis of hepatitis.

For many who rallied to Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ battle cry of “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” a hepatitis C diagnosis can be a disturbing reminder of how long ago or forgotten behaviors can cause significant consequences, even death.

Another troubling and rising demographic for hepatitis C is that of people who are 30 and younger. And that is cause for alarm, said Dr. Noel Martins, a physician with St. Luke’s Gastroenterology Specialists in Allentown.

“Overall, the number of new [hepatitis C cases] has been decreasing,” he said. “However, there has been a significant increase in hepatitis C infections among young people … that seems to correlate with increasing injection heroin use in this age group.”

But it isn’t just IV drug users at risk.

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