Their doctors have warned them, and healthcare advocates have banged the drum, but it seems that baby boomers are not taking the advice.
According to a new study, too few of them are getting tested for the hepatitis C virus, though they are the demographic more likely to have it.
Of the 3.5 million Americans with the contagious liver disease, 80 percent are baby boomers. Many don’t even know they have it. Yet despite repeated calls to action, few are actually doing anything about it.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, reported that Hep C testing rates increased a mere 1.5 percentage points — from 12.3 percent in 2013 to 13.8 percent in 2015 — after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advised boomers to get the one-time test. The idea was to reduce the diseases associated with hepatitis C, including chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver cancer.
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Of the 76 million U.S. baby boomers, only 10.5 million had been tested by 2015.
“Prevalence of HCV testing among baby boomers did not substantially increase and remains low two years after the USPSTF recommendation in 2013,” write the authors. “These findings underscore the need for increased awareness for HCV testing among healthcare providers and baby boomers and other innovative strategies such as state-mandated HCV testing.”
Insurance was a factor, according to the report. For example, those who had Medicare plus Medicaid, Medicaid only, or military insurance had higher rates of hepatitis C virus testing than those with private insurance. College graduates went for tests more often, as did men more than women.
Because hepatitis C is spread primarily through contact with infected blood, transfusions were a common source of infection before there was widespread screening of the U.S. supply in 1992. Infection also happens from sharing injection needles or being born to an infected mother. Sexual contact infection is rarer.