Baby boomers at risk for Hepatitis C

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Veteran George Dilger says there's a big difference between new treatments for Hepatitis C and the old.

"Take it from me. The old treatments were terrible; the new treatment is good," says Dilger.

As a veteran, Dilger was treated at the Veterans Hospital in Reno. The VA system as a whole has been on the forefront of treating Hepatitis C.

Even at the beginning, when veterans were routinely tested for the disease, and later when a series of medications became available-- the VA was one of the first to test those drugs--and discover there was a cure.

"They are very pro-active," infectious disease specialist Dr. Trudy Larson says.

Larson with UNR'S School of Community Health Sciences says many veterans, particularly baby boomers, are aware of Hepatitis C and treatment. The general population of baby boomers is not.

It takes 30 years for the ill effects of the virus to make themselves known in the body. Cirrhosis and liver cancer can be the result.

Still, a majority of baby boomers who carry the virus don't get tested, and don't know they have Hepatitis C.

"Hepatitis C is really recommended for everybody born between those baby boomer years, simply because we didn't know how to screen for it," says Dr. Larson.

Dr. Larson says boomers grew up before 1989 when the virus was first identified. They may have undergone procedures, had blood transfusions, or participated in risky behavior including sharing needles before that time. If there is a fear of testing postive for the disease, it can be cured. That's why boomers are being encouraged when they go to their primary care physician to push for the test.