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Advances in Hepatitis C screening and care

Battling a possible epidemic

HCV Think Big continuum chartDoctor talking with older female patient in office

Hepatitis C virus infection is the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the United States, affecting approximately 3.2 million people. The majority are asymptomatic and remain undiagnosed for many years, but 60%-70% develop chronic liver disease due to their infection.1

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls Hepatitis C “an unrecognized health crisis in the United States.” To address the impact of what has the potential to be an epidemic, the CDC and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) both recently issued recommendations to screen those at high risk of infection and adults born between 1945-1965 (baby boomers) for Hepatitis C infection.2, 3

Why baby boomers?

More than 75% of adults infected with Hepatitis C are baby boomers, people born from 1945 to 1965. Baby boomers are five times as likely as others to be infected. The reasons why are not well understood. However, most infected boomers are believed to have become infected in the 1970s and 1980s when rates of Hepatitis C transmission were the highest, and before blood supplies were routinely screened.

The Hepatitis C screening algorithm 

Hepatitis C testing consists of screening with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect Hepatitis C antibodies. Active infection can then be confirmed using a sensitive qualitative test or a quantitative Hepatitis C RNA test, such as quantitative HCV PCR. 

Diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis 
Reference
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis C Information for Health Professionals http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HCV/index.htm. Accessed 11/20/13.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations for the Identification of Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection Among Persons Born During 1945–1965. MMWR. Vol. 61 / No. 4 August 17, 2012.

3. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Screening for Hepatitis C Virus Infection in Adults. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf12/hepc/hepcfinalrs.htm #copyright Accessed November 20, 2013.