Should all Baby Boomers be tested for Hepatitis C?

By Mark Mercure, Bsc. PHARM

My favourite questions that I receive in the pharmacy are the ones that require me to do some reading to find the right answer.

A few days ago, I was asked by a patient whether it was true that all Baby Boomers should be getting tested for Hepatitis C infection. The patient had heard this being reported, and I was not aware of this as a new recommendation.Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver by the Hepatitis C virus. Most people who are at some point infected by this virus will develop a chronic, lifelong infection.

Many people who are infected with the hepatitis C virus do not have any symptoms and do not know that they are infected. The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to be tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States currently recommends that all persons born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested for Hepatitis C. However, the current recommendation from the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends screening for hepatitis C on a risk-based approach, rather than one based on age.

The official stances of Canada and the U.S. differ on whether screening all baby boomers for Hepatitis C is a good idea. However, in June, 2018, a new set of guidelines was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), which recommended a change in Canada to the age-based screening guidelines used in the United States. You can read the full article here: https://bit.ly/2EDIg9O

Members of the Baby Boomer generation are paying more attention to their health and wellness concerns as they age. Starting a discussion with a doctor about getting a Hepatitis C test is another way that older adults can take the lead on maintaining their health.