By James T. Mulder | firstname.lastname@example.org The Post-Standard
on June 20, 2013 at 4:21 PM, updated June 20, 2013 at 4:29 PM
Syracuse, N.Y. -- Baby boomers in New York will be offered screening tests for hepatitis C when they visit a doctor or hospital under a bill passed by the state Legislature today.
The bill requires screening tests to be offered to people born between 1945 and 1965.
Many baby boomers may have hepatitis C and not know it. An estimated 3.2 million Americans -- including about 20,000 New Yorkers -- are infected with hepatitis C, most of them baby boomers.
Hepatitis C is a serious virus infection that over time can cause liver damage and even liver cancer. Early treatment can prevent this damage. Many people with hepatitis C do not get the care they need because they don't know they are infected. It can take many years before someone who is infected exhibits symptoms.
Hepatitis C is mostly spread through contact with an infected person's blood. Some people could have gotten infected before widespread screening of blood began in 1992. People who have injected drugs, even if only once in the past, could have been infected by sharing a needle or drug equipment with someone who had hepatitis C.
The bill passed the Senate today 63-0. It passed the Assembly by a vote of 138-1 June 10. AARP, which backed the bill, is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the measure into law.
The Medical Society of the State of New York, which represents doctors, opposed the bill because the U.S Preventive Services Task Force has recommended against routine screening of adults who do not have symptoms and are not considered to be at high risk of having hepatitis C.
The influential task force is at odds with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which has called for hepatitis C screening of baby boomers.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Long Island, and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New York City.
Zebrowski's father died in 2006 at age 61 of liver failure and cirrhosis caused by hepatitis C. He contracted the disease from a 1973 blood transfusion, according to his son.