If you were born between 1946 and 1964, then you are in good company. Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey are just some of the iconic figures that make up this influential generation, not to mention the numerous notable actors, politicians, and sports stars.
But baby boomers are also notorious for another, not so illustrious, fact. And that is being five times more likely to have hepatitis C (HCV) than any other generation.
Why is this so? Well, doctors can only guess. The virus was only discovered in 1989 and blood screening did not become mainstream until 1992, so transmission of the virus was possible prior to this time through contaminated blood or blood products, and medical or tattooing equipment. Needle sharing among drug users was also common pre-nineties, and the late 1960s saw the approval of the first oral contraceptive pill, bringing with it increased sexual promiscuity which is also a risk factor for viral transmission.
The truth is, most people with HCV don’t know how or when they got infected. Many actually do not know that they are infected, because the virus causes few symptoms, yet over time causes liver damage, cirrhosis, or liver cancer. Which is why testing is critical, and the only way to know if you have the virus or not.
If your tests results do come back saying you have the virus, rest assured that the majority of people can be cured, although not all treatments work on all types of HCV. Treatment is also notoriously expensive; however, the approval of AbbVie’s Mavyret in 2017, an oral tablet with an eight-week treatment course at a cost of around $26,000, has meant more competition in the market, putting pressure on other companies to lower their prices.
More than 30% of the U.S. population was born in the post-war era, yet many have never been tested for HCV. If you were born during this time, be proactive and ask your doctor for an HCV test. It might save your life.