CDC urges hepatitis C patients to get care

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Only 51 percent of people in the United States who test positive for hepatitis C received the necessary follow- up to determine if they require medical care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 80 percent of people can't fight off the virus that attacks the liver on their own. Without a follow-up, these patients may not get the health care they need, the Atlanta-based government health agency said yesterday in a report.

A screening test shows if a person has ever been infected by the virus that usually spreads through contact with infected blood. If that antibody test is positive, a follow-up determines if the person is still infected and needs medical treatment.

About 3.2 million people in the United States have hepatitis C, which can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer. The CDC recommends that people born from 1945 to 1965 get tested, as 75 percent of infected adults were born in this period.

"You may not remember everything that happened in the '60s and '70s, but your liver does," Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC said yesterday in a conference call with reporters. "The bottom line here is, if you're born between those years, get tested."

Hepatitis C often shows no symptoms while it damages the liver.

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