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Doctor urges baby boomers to get tested for Hepatitis C

PHOENIX — A Tucson doctor says baby boomers should get their blood checked.

That’s because they’re more at risk for the Hepatitis C virus.

“The incidence of Hepatitis C in the U.S. population is about 1 percent, but in the baby boomer population, it’s about 5 percent,” said Dr. Thomas Boyer of the University of Arizona.

And he said the baby boomers’ past behaviors may be to blame.

“In the 1960s and ‘70s, there was a lot of use of injection drugs among this group of individuals,” Boyer explained. “In addition, the blood supply contained Hepatitis C, so individuals receiving blood transfusions during those times were also at increased risk.”

Boyer said that checking someone’s blood for the virus is easy — and getting easier.

“We’re actually establishing a free screening program here in Tucson,” said Boyer. “It involves a finger stick. Twenty minutes later, we tell them whether they do or do not have the antibody for the Hepatitis C virus.”

The program is held at a clinic that will be open on Friday mornings from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., starting July 18. Minimal registration is involved. Those interested can call 1-520-621-HEPC (4372) to make an appointment or get more information.

Boyer said that a person’s own doctor can also draw blood to test for Hepatitis C. He added that blood donors, however, probably don’t need to get checked, because their blood would have been tested the last time that they made a donation.