The baby boomers generation is made up of people born between the years 1945 and 1965. According to research studies, this generation group is five times more likely to develop hep C than other people. Actually, among the population diagnosed with hep C, their group makes up as much as three-quarters. For this reason you will often hear the CDC recommending routine testing for hepatitis C for baby boomers.
The causes why baby boomers are prone to hep C are multiple and various. There are social, historical and cultural stigmas attached to both the disease and the age group. Still researchers can’t pin down a single reason why the baby boomers generation is at a higher risk for hepatitis C. The possible reasons range from treatment options, drug use and blood transfusions.
Unsafe medical procedures
One of the biggest reason why baby boomers are more likely to develop hepatitis C is due to unsafe medical procedures in the past. At the time, there was no screening method or protocol to check the blood supply and ensure that it is virus free. According to a study performed in the year 2016 and published by The Lancet, rather than unsafe injection drug use, the primary reason behind hepatitis C transmission among the baby boomers generation consists in unsafe medical procedures of the time. The research team behind the study found that:
- During the 1940s and 1960s we had the highest infection rates
- The disease spread before 1965
- Around the year 1960, the infected population stabilized
The stigma of drug use as main cause of the disease is refuted by these findings. In the 1940s, for instance, most baby boomers could not knowingly engage in risky behavior, being far too young. However, drug abuse is still a significant risk factor for hep C. Even people who did not get hep C by injection drugs, according to Hep C Mag, still face this stigma.
Another known fact about hep C is that a person can carry the virus for a long period of time before it started to cause any symptoms. Because of this particularity, determining when or how the hep C infection occurred becomes even more difficult.
Baby boomers are prone to an increased also because of a matter of place and time. They grew up at a time when doctors didn’t routinely screen for hepatitis C.
Why the stigma matters?
Some believes the main reason for baby boomers to get hep C is due to drug use. This is misleading and discouraging people from seeking help. Researchers involved with the study published by “The Lancet” hope that the rate of screening will increase thanks to highlighting the effect of hep C stigma.
Because the ways in which it can be transmitted by use of intravenous drugs, same as AIDS and HIV, hepatitis C carries certain social stigmas. However, sexual fluids and contaminated blood can transmit hepatitis C.
Effects of stigmas
- Affect quality of life and self-esteem
- Prevent people from obtaining the needed healthcare
- Increase complications risk
- Delay diagnosis and treatment
Especially since someone can suffer from hepatitis C without any notable symptoms for decades, it is vital to break down any barriers to testing as well as to treatments. The more likely a person will require a liver transplant or experience serious heath complications, the longer they go undiagnosed. Working through the stigma in order to get the proper diagnosis and treatment is very important, taking into consideration the high cure rate with treatment.
In case that you receive a hep C diagnosis, you may feel it’s difficult to talk about your diagnosis. For this reason, it is often recommended to consider taking a companion with you when seeing a docotor. During your treatment, a circle of family members or trusted friends can represent an invaluable support system.
Treatment options for hep C
The disease can lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis, and even death. However, according to statistics, the newer treatments have a cure rate in the range of 90 to 100 percent. In the past, treatments used to be more complicated. They involved painful drug injections and consisted of months-long treatment protocols, but had low success rates. Nowadays, taking a drug combination pill for only 12 weeks would cure hepatitis C.