Hepatitis warning for baby boomers - Omaha, Nebraska - CHI Health

Hepatitis warning for baby boomers

Article Date: Sep 21, 2012

Alegent Creighton Clinic Gastroenterologist Bennie Upchurch, III, M.D.Experts have issued a new preventive health warning for anyone born between 1945 and 1965: get screened for hepatitis.

The so-called baby boomer generation makes up about a quarter of the U.S. population, yet accounts for nearly three-fourths of all hepatitis C cases in the U.S. – and most don't know they're infected.

Alegent Creighton Clinic Gastroenterologist Bennie Upchurch, III, M.D., treats patients with hepatitis. "We do see it a lot in people who are born between 1945 and 1970, but many cases are asymptomatic," he warns.

That's why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends anyone born between 1945 and 1965 get a one-time test for the hepatitis C virus – even if they have never experienced any symptoms. The virus, if left untreated, causes an infection that can lead to liver disease, cirrhosis, and other chronic health problems. Health officials believe many of the millions of infected Americans have been unknowingly living with hepatitis C for decades.

"We didn't have a test for hepatitis C until 1989," Dr. Upchurch explains. "We saw it, but we didn't know what it was; it was referred to as non-A non-B hepatitis. And that was at the tail end of the time when drug use and shared needles was more common."

Now a simple blood test is all it takes to detect if patients have the virus. The CDC estimates a one-time hepatitis C test of all baby boomers could identify more than 800,000 additional cases.

The good news: there is a cure.

"Over the last ten to twelve years, therapies have become much more effective for treatment of hepatitis C. The earlier the disease is found, before it causes other chronic health problems, the more effective the treatments are at curing the virus," says Dr. Upchurch.

Reader Comments
Posted: Oct 9 2012 3:36 PM CST by Matt McCahill

thanks for the information I will get tested next office visit with my doctor

Posted: Oct 10 2012 8:07 AM CST by Matt McCahill

Will the cost of the test be covered by insurance or by Alegent Creighton Health?

Will this be considered preventive care?

Posted: Oct 10 2012 2:00 AM CST by Matt McCahill

Hi Jill,

Patients should check with their individual insurance provider to find out whether this screening is covered. We did track down the information for Alegent Creighton Health/Alegent Creighton Clinic employees on our insurance, however:

"Hepatitis C (HCV) screenings are not covered under preventative screenings, so they are not covered at 100%. The medical plans do cover the test but the claims would follow deductible and coinsurance of the employee’s chosen plan."

We hope that helps! If you still have questions, try giving 717-MyHR a call and they should be able to help you sort it out.

Posted: Oct 14 2012 12:58 PM CST by Matt McCahill

Thanks for this warning. What are the things that we should look for that may indicate that we have this infection?

Posted: Oct 15 2012 10:37 AM CST by Matt McCahill

Hi James,
It's most important to note that most patients with hepatitis C do not experience symptoms. Chronic hepatitis C can be present for 10 - 30 years, and cirrhosis or liver failure can sometimes develop before patients experience any clear symptom. Signs of liver damage may first be detected when blood tests for liver function are performed.

If initial symptoms do occur, they tend to be very mild and resemble the flu with fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, fever, headaches, and abdominal pain. People who have symptoms usually tend to experience them about 6 - 7 weeks after exposure to the virus. Some people may not experience symptoms for up to 6 months after exposure. People who have hepatitis C can still pass the virus on to others even if they do not have symptoms.

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Related Links
What is hepatitis?

Bennie Upchurch, III, M.D.

Alegent Creighton Clinic Gastroenterology

Centers for Disease Control