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RIDOH Urges Hepatitis C Testing For Baby Boomers

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) urges all Baby Boomers (people born in the United States between 1945 and 1965) who have not been previously tested for hepatitis C to do so at one of Rhode Island's free, confidential testing sites today on World Hepatitis Day.

Of the more than three million people in the United States who are living with hepatitis C, 75% were born between 1945 and 1965.

More information about the free, confidential testing sites is available online. Testing is available at these sites year round.

"Hepatitis C is a serious disease, but it is also absolutely curable through testing, early diagnosis, and treatment," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "Testing is especially important for Baby Boomers, who are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other older adults. To build healthy communities and a healthy Rhode Island, we need to address health disparities wherever they exist in the state, and give everyone the chance to live a long, full, productive life."

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Health impacts of hepatitis C can include liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer. It results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus, which is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. Hepatitis C can be either acute or chronic. Today, there are medications that can virtually cure hepatitis C.

In addition to encouraging testing for hepatitis C, RIDOH and RI Defeats Hep C are co-sponsoring a "C is For Cure" hepatitis C Waterfire on August 6th. Educational material and other resources will be available to help Rhode Islanders learn about the illness, as well as testing and prevention. This educational event will be complemented in the coming weeks by the release of a hepatitis C epidemiological profile by RIDOH and the Rhode Island Public Health Institute. This first comprehensive hepatitis C epidemiologic report for Rhode Island will include data on hospitalizations, mortality, Medicaid claims, testing, substance use, health disparities, and many other facets of hepatitis C.

Other people who should be tested, in addition to Baby Boomers, include anyone who:

Currently injects drugs, or who has ever injected drugs, even once or a few times, in the past; Received clotting factor concentrates produced before 1987; Has ever had long-term hemodialysis; Has persistently abnormal alanine aminotransferace (ALT) levels; Has HIV infection; Has received blood transfusions or organ transplant(s) before July 1992; Has been notified they received blood from a donor who later tested positive for hepatitis C; or Received a blood transfusion, blood components, or an organ transplant before July 1992.

Although high prices have prompted some health plans to restrict access to treatment to individuals with more advanced stages of hepatitis C, testing is still extremely important for Baby Boomers who have not been previously tested and for people who fit into one of the categories listed above. This is because without testing, people cannot know if they have hepatitis C in a more advanced stage. Often, people with later stage hepatitis C who may be a priority group for receiving treatment do not have symptoms.

More information about hepatitis C is available online.

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