Experts at Montefiore Medical Center urge the general public to be tested for the Hepatitis C virus, especially baby boomers, adults born between 1946-1964, who could be most at risk for this disease. Baby boomers are more likely to have been exposed to dangerous risk factors decades ago, such as sharing a drug needle, being tattooed or pierced with unsterilized tools or receiving a tainted blood transfusion. The disease often has no symptoms, and if untreated, can lead to chronic infection that can scar the liver, cause liver failure or cancer and potentially lead to liver transplantation.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common chronic blood borne infection in the United States, with 35,000 to 185,000 new cases diagnosed per year. Worldwide, 180 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis C, with an estimated 3-4 million new cases reported each year. The disease particularly affects minorities, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and African-Americans.
“This disease has grown to epidemic proportions, with 350,000 people around the world dying from Hepatitis C-related liver disease,” said Milan Kinkhabwala, MD, Chief, Division of Transplantation at the Montefiore Einstein Center for Transplantation. “But it is called the ‘silent killer’ because many people don’t even know they have it. This condition can be asymptomatic for decades and then present itself when it has already severely damaged the liver.”