Only a quarter of US individuals in the generation
most likely to have hepatitis C have ever been tested for the infection,
results of a survey conducted by the American Gastroenterological Association
Moreover, 80% of patients in the “baby boomer”
generation (born between 1945 and 1965) did not consider themselves to be at any risk of becoming infected. This
is despite the findings of a recent US mortality survey showed that hepatitis C
deaths were concentrated in the 45 to 64 age group.
An estimated five million people in the
US are infected with hepatitis C and up to 50% of these infections are
Surveillance data suggest that 82% of
infections are concentrated in the baby boomer generation. Three-quarters of
hepatitis C-related deaths also occur in this age group.
Hepatitis C screening strategies are risk based, focusing on people with a history of injecting drug use. The
authors of one recent study commented that this approach had been “notably unsuccessful, as few have
been screened for risk and are still only tested when they have symptoms…few
physicians ask about the major risk factor for HCV, injecting drug use, and few
interviewees wish to admit this behavior”.
doctors are therefore advocating an 'age-based' approach to testing, with
efforts focusing on patients aged 45 to 64, the generation with the highest
prevalence of the infection.
results of the latest survey suggest that there is very low awareness of
hepatitis C in this baby boomer generation.
revealed that while baby boomers are most at risk of having hepatitis C, the
majority are unaware of their risk and have never been or are unsure if they
have been tested,” states a factsheet accompanying the results of the study.
“This lack of knowledge has significant implications because, of the nearly 5
million Americans infected with hepatitis C, 82% are baby boomers.”
online survey was conducted by the market research company Harris Interactive
on behalf of the AGA. A total of 1006 individuals born between 1945 and 1965
completed a questionnaire enquiring about their knowledge of hepatitis C,
as well as their testing history and any discussions about the infection with health-care providers.
survey was developed to determine how knowledgeable baby boomers across the US
are about hepatitis C, to reveal where the lack of understanding for hepatitis
C lies among this at risk population and identify where more education and
action are needed,” says the factsheet.
though over eight in ten hepatitis C infections are in patients aged 47 to 67,
the majority (80%) of study participants did not consider themselves as being
at risk of the disease. Only 17% were aware that their generation had the highest
prevalence of the infection.
participants were also largely unaware about many important facts about
only 18% were aware that the infection could be cured. Half believed that
prevalence of the infection was similar across age groups, with 25% stating
that the risk was greatest for those in their 30s and early 40s.
of the study suggested that no more than a quarter of participants had ever
been tested for hepatitis C. Moreover, 83% stated that they had never even
discussed the infection with a healthcare provider.
they did occur, these discussions were clearly beneficial. Individuals who had
talked to their doctor about hepatitis C felt more knowledgeable about the infection
(76 vs 30%) and were considerably more likely to have been tested (64 vs
factsheet publicising the findings of the survey can be downloaded here.