Newswise — LOS ANGELES – Cedars-Sinai experts are available to comment on a newly-released Centers for Disease Control recommendation that Baby Boomers be screened for Hepatitis C.
Proactive screening is an important step to treating the disease early, potentially preventing Hepatitis C patients from needing liver transplants. Chronic hepatitis C, linked to approximately 10,000 deaths each year, is the leading cause of liver cancer and cirrhosis and is the chief reason for the need for liver transplants in the U.S.
“Most patients with Hepatitis C don’t have symptoms, so they may not know that they have it or that they’ve even been exposed,” said Tram Tran, MD, assistant director of Hepatology and Liver Transplantation at Cedars-Sinai.
Treatments for the disease have been evolving rapidly, with some treatments showing 70 percent cure rates. Cedars-Sinai is one of the major research sites investigating new treatments for Hepatitis C, and is involved in developing many of anti-viral drugs that are changing how this disease is treated. Among those are telaprevir and boceprevir, anti-viral drugs that inhibit replication of the virus and are currently used in combination with other hepatitis treatments.
“Once you’re cured by these anti-viral drugs, you’re cured of hepatits C completely,” said Fred Poordad, MD, chief of Hepatology and Liver Transplantation at Cedars-Sinai. “That’s a little known fact among the public – and even among physicians who don’t regularly treat liver disease.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 3.2 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C virus infections. The disease is linked to as many as 10,000 deaths each year and is spread through virally infected blood, often by sharing of syringes or other equipment to inject drugs.
Although the risk of infection has dropped dramatically since the early 1990s, many older adults are still at risk and the CDC says that one in 30 baby boomers – those born during 1945-1965 – has been infected. Many are not aware they have the disease, so screening will spur proactive treatment and prevent the spread of the disease.
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