A study by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), in partnership with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC), found the peak growth of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) epidemic in North America among individuals born between 1945 and 1964 (baby boomers) occurred when they were young children. The findings suggest the HCV that spread among baby boomers was not associated with risky behavior, such as injection drug use experimentation, high-risk sexual practices, or unsafe tattooing, but rather reuse of needles and syringes in health care settings before disposables became the uniform standard of practice.
The study revises estimates of the exponential growth phase of the North American HCV genotype 1a epidemic, the region’s most dominant form of HCV, by 15 years previous. The oldest members of the baby boomer cohort were roughly 5 years old at the peak of the epidemic in 1950.
The peak exponential growth of HCV corresponds to an overall increase in medical procedures following the Second World War. A plateau in the spread of HCV was observed between 1960 and 1990, consistent with the hypothesis that changes in injection technology were a driving factor.
Dr Julio Montaner, director of the BC-CfE, identifies that the results of the study strongly support routine HCV screening for all people born between 1945 and 1964, in line with recent US CDC recommendations, and that any baby boomer could be living with HCV even in the absence of symptoms or any history of high-risk behaviors and should be encouraged to proactively seek HCV testing.
The study is published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases and is available at www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099%2816%2900124-9/abstract.
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