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Hepatitis C Screenings for Baby Boomers Receive Lukewarm Support

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued new recommendations for Baby Boomers: whether at risk or not, everyone should get tested for Hepatitis C.

Now, an influential advisory board is offering only half-hearted support for the protocol.  In a draft opinion issued Tuesday, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) advises doctors to “consider offering screening” for Hepatitis C for adults born between 1945 and 1965.

The recommendation is labeled “Grade C,” which the USPSTF’s website deems “only a small benefit” for people without prior symptoms.  It did extend a “Grade B” recommendation for screenings high-risk adults, such as those with a history with intravenous drugs.

The USPSTF is made up of outside experts appointed by the government, and is widely considered more influential than the CDC.  As a result of the low-grade recommendation, insurance carriers might not cover the one-time hepatitis screenings.

The National Virus Hepatitis Roundtable immediately called for a revision to the USPSTF’s draft opinion.  “Doctors look to USPSTF to guide clinical practice and A and B recommendations get covered without cost-sharing to patients,” said Executive Director Martha Saly.  “This is not going to be the case with a C recommendation and will result in many people not being tested.”

According to the CDC, Baby Boomers born between 1945 and 1965 are five times more likely to be infected with Hepatitis C than the average adult.  Infected adults can live with the virus for decades before showing symptoms, leaving many people unaware they are living with the liver disease.

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