The CDC recommends that all adults who were born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for hepatitis C, because people in that age group are five times more likely to be infected than other adults. The virus attacks the liver and in some people eventually causes cirrhosis and liver cancer.
More than 2 million Americans are infected-including one in 30 baby boomers-but most don’t know it, since it can take decades for symptoms to develop. (Symptoms include easy bruising, tiredness, fever, loss of appetite, yellowish eyes and skin, and dark yellow urine.) As many as 15,000 people in the U.S. die each year from complications of the disease.
The virus is usually spread by blood. Many people became infected via blood transfusions before 1992 (since then, blood has been screened for the virus). Today the virus is most often transmitted by sharing needles; more rarely it is spread via unprotected sex. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, as there is for hepatitis A and B, but new therapies can cure most infections.