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Baby Boomer Veterans More at Risk for Hepatitis C

Veterans from the baby boomer generation (born between 1945-1965) are at a higher risk of being infected with the Hepatitis C (HCV) virus than any other Veteran group, according to report by the Population Health group.

Graphic of a bar chart showing the Hepatitis C infection rate for 
   Veterans born prior to 1945, born 1945-1965 and after 1965. Chart shows 1.7 percent infection rate for Veterans born prior to 1945, 10.3      percent for Veterans born between 1945 and 1965 and finally a 1.1 percent hepatitis C infection rate for Veterans born after 1965. 

The Veterans Health Administration's Office of Public Health-Population Health group, reports that baby boomer Veterans had a Hepatitis C infection rate more than five times higher than other Veterans.

Veterans born in 1954 had the highest infection rate at 18.4 percent.

The VA report is consistent with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which shows that 75 percent of Americans who have become infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) are baby boomers.

In response to this information the CDC, along with the U.S. Preventive Services, issued a recommendation that all baby boomer adults receive a one-time screening for the virus. The VA report shows that in 2011 slightly more than half of the 5.4 million Veterans who received VA outpatient care were screened for Hepatitis C.

The 1970s and 1980s had high infection rates for the virus and it is during this period that many of the baby boomers may have unknowingly contracted it because symptoms may not show up for decades, according to the CDC.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease that can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness which can result in serious complications and increase the risk for liver cancer.

To learn more about Hepatitis C and VA care for the disease visit www.hepatitis.va.gov.

Read the full VA report.