Reporting Meghan McCorkell
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Health alert. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns millions of Americans have a potentially deadly virus and don’t even know it. Now, they are recommending certain people get tested for Hepatitis C.
Meghan McCorkell has the latest.
Doctors warn Hepatitis C is the most common cause of liver cancer. They say baby boomers are the most susceptible population.
Doctors call it a silent killer.
“Every time I would drink, my liver would hurt,” Ted Kaplan, who was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, said.
Kaplan is one of millions.
“I’m 52 and I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1995,” he said. “It has really affected my health, and for 14 years, I didn’t even know that I was infected.”
Now, the CDC is sounding the alarm, recommending all baby boomers get tested for Hepatitis C, the leading cause of liver cancer.
“Baby boomers are five times more likely than other adults to be infected, yet still very unlikely to be unaware of their status,” Dr. Bryce Smith said.
According to the CDC, more than 2 million baby boomers are infected with Hepatitis C. That makes up about 75 percent of U.S. cases. More than 15,000 people die each year from Hepatitis C-related illnesses, most of them baby boomers.
The problem is so pervasive, the Baltimore City Health Department is hiring an epidemiologist to track Hepatitis C cases.
“It is a common disease but it is not a death sentence,” Dr. Paul Thuluvath of Mercy Medical Center said.
Thuluvath says most patients with Hepatitis C don’t experience symptoms until they have liver cancer or advanced cirrhosis.
Early detection is key.
“We can cure 90 percent of Hepatitis C now,” Thuluvath said.
“I’ve got five weeks left, I’ve been negative since Week 3,” Kaplan said.
For patients like him, that offers a new lease on life.
Thuluvath says he’s already seen an uptick in patients being diagnosed here in Baltimore.
The CDC says if all baby boomers get tested, 120,000 lives could be saved in the U.S.
The CDC believes baby boomers are more susceptible in part because there was no test to detect Hepatitis C in the blood prior to 1992.