The answer may be an obvious “no” for some, but millions of Americans don’t know the answer or don’t realize that they are a carrier. Hepatitis C is a bloodborne disease that can lie dormant for years or even decades before showing any symptoms. Transmission occurs between blood-to-blood contact, with most new cases stemming from intravenous drug usage and a smaller percentage stemming from sexual activity. The recent heroin epidemics in midwestern and southern states have resulted in a spike of new Hepatitis C and HIV cases, as people are sharing needles without proper needle exchanges set in place.
The largest percentage of adults with Hepatitis C are baby boomers with more than 75% of the adult cases being people born from 1945 through 1965. While the reason why the baby boomers are the biggest population of Hepatitis C carriers is not completely understood, there are a couple ideas. Hepatitis C rates were the highest in the 70s and 80s, which is when many of the baby boomers were young adults. The baby boomers could have also contracted Hepatitis C from contaminated blood supplies from medical procedures, as widespread screening of the blood supply didn’t occur until 1992 when universal precautions against contamination were adopted.
There is only one way to know if you have Hepatitis C: get tested! If you were born between 1945 and 1965, many institutions—including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—highly recommend you get tested, even if you don’t have a history of intravenous drug usage. Any surgical procedure or blood transfusion done before 1992 could have involved contaminated blood, and it is important to make sure you are not of the 1-in-30 baby boomers that is projected to have Hepatitis C, and if you are, it’s important you start seeking treatment right away.
Looking for somewhere to get tested? NeedyMeds has over 1700 clinics and counting nationwide that offer free or low-cost Hepatitis C testing. If you want to find a clinic that does testing near you, check out our Free/Low-Cost/Sliding Scale Medical Clinic database and do a search for clinics near your zip code. Unfortunately because of the cost of the cure, there are much fewer treatment centers, but NeedyMeds has patient assistant programs (PAPs) for Sovaldi, Harvoni, and Viekira Pak—all proven cures for Hepatitis C. So don’t wait until it’s too late; get tested today and know your status!