January 3, 2014—As the result of a New York State law passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York hospitals and health service providers are now required to offer testing for the hepatitis C virus to all patients born between 1945 and 1965.
“Testing for hepatitis C will lead to more people being diagnosed and treated for this infection,” said Samuel Sigal, MD, clinical director of hepatology, NYU Langone Medical Center. “This increase in testing comes at a time when recent groundbreaking scientific advances are rapidly leading to more effective and potentially even curative treatment for individuals diagnosed with hepatitis C,” he explained.
Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver, and is spread largely through contact with the blood of a person who has hepatitis C. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3.2 million persons in the United States have chronic hepatitis C infection and most do not know they are infected. In addition, approximately 75% of people infected with hepatitis C are baby boomers. While hepatitis C can often cause no symptoms, over time, the infection can lead to serious liver damage, cirrhosis, and an increased risk for liver cancer.
“Increased testing is the first step to detecting hepatitis C early, and offering effective treatment options to people who are unknowingly infected with this virus,” said Dr. Sigal.
The new law went into effect on January 1, 2014.