CDC policy boosted baby boomer hep C screening rates by nearly 50%

Hepatitis C screening among individuals born between 1945 and 1965 increased 49 percent between 2012 and 2014. The increase followed the 2012 release of CDC hepatitis C screening guidelines for baby boomers, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on more than 3 million hepatitis C screenings conducted between 2010 and 2014 for individuals older than 18. Researchers pulled information on the screenings from a commercial health insurance database managed by Truven Health Analytics. Among all age groups, hepatitis C screening rates increased steadily from 1.65 per 100 person-years in 2010 to 2.59 per 100 person-years in 2014. Among baby boomers, researchers observed a marginal increase in screening rates from 2010 to 2012 (1.09 per 100 person-years to 1.44 per 100 person-years) followed by a sharper increase from 2012 to 2014 (1.44 per 100 person-years to 2.53 per 100 person-years).

"We found that the 2012 CDC recommendation that people born in the period 1945-65 be tested for hepatitis C had a significant impact on screening trends," wrote the study's authors. "These results contribute to the body of evidence that health policy recommendations can affect clinical practice. However, screening for and identifying hepatitis C infection are just the first steps in the continuum of care. Further expansion of hepatitis C testing recommendations and the development of region-specific approaches to address barriers to implementation could lead to increased treatment and significantly improve clinical outcomes associated with hepatitis C in the United States."

Baby boomers are five times more likely to have hepatitis C. Experts suspect most baby boomers were infected between the 1960s and 1980s when hepatitis C transmission was highest. While the reason for this high rate of viral incidence is not completely understood, a lack of universal infection control precautions during this time period may have contributed to the virus' spread through contact with medical equipment. Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected individual and can lie dormant for 20 years or more before causing liver damage, cirrhosis and liver cancer, according to the CDC.

More articles on infection control: 
Meningococcal disease, legionnaires', drug-resistant TB: 5 recent and ongoing outbreaks 
How C. diff affects cost for pediatric hospitalizations 
CDC: Outpatient influenza visits surpass national baseline as flu activity increases

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