Hepatitis C is one of several viral infections of the liver; if left untreated, the condition can result in liver damage, liver cancer, or even death. The “baby boomer” generation (those born between 1945 and 1965) has long been known to be five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other generations. In the United States, hepatitis C is four times more prevalent than HIV. Like HIV, hepatitis C is spread through infected blood or body fluids. Historically, the baby boomers were among those with the highest risk for getting the disease. But according to a 2020 press release by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), multiple generations are now being majorly impacted by hep C.
A person can get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, but there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. However, when the disorder is diagnosed before damage (such as scaring) to the liver occurs, it is curable.
Symptoms of Hep C
Often, those infected with hepatitis C remain asymptomatic (no signs or symptoms) for many years. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Lack of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Itchy skin
- Jaundice (yellowish tinge to the skin)
- Dark Urine
- Ascites (fluid buildup in your abdomen)
- Lower extremity swelling
- Weight loss
- Hepatic encephalopathy (confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech)
- Spider angiomas (spiderlike blood vessels appearing on the skin)
Hepatitis C Stigma
There has long been a stigma associated with hep C and IV drug use. A 2016 study has debunked this myth. While IV drug use is one risk factor, the 2016 Lancet report found that baby boomers were more likely at high risk of having hepatitis C from unsafe medical procedures and a lack of screening protocols than as a result of IV drug use.
Risks of Hepatitis C
Old data, compiled before 2018, revealed that the highest hepatitis C infection rates occurred during the 1940s and 1960s. Baby boomers were historically at the highest risk of hep C due to several factors, including:
- Unsafe medical protocols
- No screening methods for blood banks
- No protocols for individuals to undergo hepatitis C screening
New Statistical Findings
A 2020 report released by the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention showed that chronic (long-term) hepatitis C has a significant impact on every generation today. The report underscored previous study findings that the baby boomer