According to the CDC, more than 2 million baby boomers - one in 30 -- have been infected with hepatitis C, most without even knowing it. CDC says its studies show that many baby boomers were infected decades ago, but not perceiving themselves to be at risk, have never been tested.
"A one-time blood test for hepatitis C should be on every baby boomer's medical checklist," said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden in a press release "The new recommendations can protect the health of an entire generation of Americans and save thousands of lives."
Previously, the CDC had recommend hepatitis C testing only for people with a history of known risk factors, an approach that "missed far too many infections," according to Dr. Frieden.
The CDC has estimate that having all baby boomers tested would identify more than 800,000 additional people carrying a hepatitis C infection and result in the saving of more than 120,000 lives.
Like high blood pressure, the CDC calls hepatitis C a "silent killer," that can live in the human liver for years, destroying it slowly before showing any noticeable symptoms.
"Because hepatitis C has few noticeable symptoms, many of those who are infected have no idea that the virus has been slowly damaging their livers," said Bryce Smith, PhD, of the CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis. "Testing is the only way to identify the millions of Americans who have the virus, and is the first step in stopping this epidemic in its tracks."