As baby boomers we have a long health care to- do- list. Now it is time to add another one. Hepatitis C, a serious liver infection also known as the “Silent Killer.” There are no early warning signs, and the disease lays dormant for years, quietly destroying the liver. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) seventy five percent of baby boomers (persons born between 1945 and 1965) are infected with this disease.
Many black boomers may feel that they have not been exposed to this disease. They may have been infected during their teens or early twenties, when infection control procedures and blood screening were not standardize. Participating in high risk sexual behaviors may also contribute.
- Sharing needles for Injecting illegal drugs or inhaling with straws
- Having tattoos or body piercings in unhygienic environments
- Having a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- Receiving dialysis treatments
- Exposure to needle sticks from infected persons
- HIV infected persons
- Unprotected sex with multiple partners
- Having sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)
Important Facts for Black/African Americans
- The CDC has developed a fact sheet on this disease for Black/African Americans
- Twenty two percent of African Americans have chronic Hepatitis C
- Hepatitis C may result in chronic liver disease resulting in death for persons 45-64 years of age
- African Americans lack testing for this condition
- Unlike Hepatitis B, there is no available vaccine
- Approximately 26 Americans die each day from Hepatitis C complications
- Over one hundred and seventy thousand new cases are reported each year.
The CDC has recommended a one-time screening to rule out Hepatitis C infection for all baby boomers. Testing should be done for those persons with risk factors or symptoms of the disease. Although there is no vaccine currently available, this condition can be managed with medication.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/AfricanAmerica-HepC.htm
Harriette Barker, Ph.D, RN