More people should be screened for hepatitis C, according to updated recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), issued in March 2020.
The influential group now advises one-time screening for the virus in all adults ages 18 to 79 who have no symptoms of liver disease, with periodic follow-up screening in high-risk people. Previous USPSTF recommendations called for routine screening only in adults born between 1945 and 1965.
The expanded recommendation was driven in part by a dramatic rise in hepatitis C cases in the past decade, the authors wrote. In addition, it makes sense to screen more people because newer and shorter-duration antiviral treatments (8 to 12 weeks as opposed to 24 to 48 weeks for less effective older treatments) are now available that can cure up to 95 percent of cases with a high degree of safety.
The main risk factors for hepatitis C, which can cause severe liver disease, are injection drug use and having had a blood transfusion before 1992. Sharing cocaine straws (or straws used to inhale other drugs) is also a risk factor. Sexual transmission is rare but rises with multiple partners or concomitant HIV infection.
Also see Hepatitis ABCs.