Over 250,000 Canadians believed to be infected but 40% to 70% are unaware they have blood-borne virus. The Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver, a national group of health-care providers and researchers, published its guidelines on testing and treating hepatitis C in Monday’s edition of the CMAJ.
Canadians born between 1945 and 1975 — essentially the baby-boom generation — should be tested for the potentially liver-destroying virus hepatitis C, a new set of guidelines recommends.
More than 250,000 Canadians are believed to be infected with hepatitis C, but 40 to 70 per cent are unaware they harbour the blood-borne virus because it can take decades before symptoms become evident. Chronic infection can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
The Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver, a national group of health-care providers and researchers, published its guidelines on testing and treating hepatitis C in Monday’s edition of the CMAJ.
A key recommendation is that people be tested based on their age — not only possible risk factors, said Dr. Jordan Feld, a liver specialist at Toronto’s University Health Network and a co-author of the guidelines.
“And the reason we’ve done this is it just happens that somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of people with hepatitis C were born between 1945 and 1975 in Canada,” he said.
“So just the way someone gets a blood pressure check or a cholesterol check or a colonoscopy based on their age, we would recommend that they get a hepatitis C test if they’re born between those years.
“And if we do that, we hopefully diagnose the vast majority of people living with hepatitis C.”
The recommendations differ from those issued last year by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, which advised screening only people at high risk of infection, no matter their age.