July 13, 2012
Maryland health officials are working to get more people, especially baby boomers, tested for hepatitis C virus. Current guidelines call for testing those with risk factors such as previous drug use. CDC has proposed revising the guidelines to recommend HCV testing for everyone born between 1945 and 1965.
In Baltimore, the health department has hired an epidemiologist dedicated to HCV cases. Large numbers of cases have been reported by labs and health care providers, and there were not enough staffers to follow up. "It is a prevalent problem," said Evelyn Rodriguez, deputy commissioner for communicable diseases at the Baltimore City Health Department.
The new epidemiologist will make improvements in disease-tracking to determine the scope of the problem. Outbreaks will be identified to curb the spread of HCV, and residents will be educated about the virus. If the disease is detected and treated, there can be fewer life-threatening complications such as liver cancer.
One in 30 baby boomers has HCV, and most do not know it, according to CDC. Boomers account for more than 75 percent of cases and are five times more likely than other adults to be infected.
Health problems associated with HCV have been increasing for the last decade, and they are projected to grow even more rapidly in coming years if the disease is not better controlled, CDC says. The rate for successful treatment used to be less than 30 percent but is now as high as 80 percent.
CDC estimates that screening all baby boomers would reveal an additional 800,000 infected people and save 120,000 lives.
07.06.12; Andrea K. Walker
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