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For a young person like myself, the AIDS virus always seemed like the “boogey man” disease of my generation. However, partly due to my naiveté and mostly due to my misunderstanding of risk, it turns out that other conditions are now far more serious that have flown under the radar for many years.

Hepatitis C kills more Americans each year than AIDS. Transmitted by blood, it is the leading cause of liver transplants. An estimated 3.2 million Americans are thought to be infected – three quarters of them baby boomers, who are largely at risk of having caught the virus through drug use or receiving a blood transfusion before widespread screening for the virus became available in 1992.

By taking a one-off blood test urged for all baby boomers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that 800,000 new infections will be identified and 120,000 hepatitis-related deaths avoided in this age group.

Most people with the virus show no symptoms, but around 15,000 people die of it each year – a large percentage through scarring of the liver. A relatively new three-drug treatment can cure around 79 per cent of people with the disease.

[Excerpted from New Scientist]