Bill Passed by Legislature Require s Offer of Screening Test for Boomers Visiting Doctor or Hospital; Follows Recommendation by Centers for Disease Control
ALBANY, N. Y. – Baby boomers across New York, many of whom may have hepatitis C without knowing it, will be offered a screening test when visiting health care providers under an AARP-backed bill passed by the state Legislature today.
The bill ( S2750A/ A1286), sponsored by Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-New City), requires people born between 1945 and 1965 to be offered a screening test for hepatitis C – a potentially fatal illness - when seeing their primary care doctor and receiving hospital inpatient and outpatient care.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called for such testing last August after finding people born between 1945 and 1965 are at risk for Hepatitis C infection. Those baby boomers accounted for 75 percent of the estimated 3.2 million Americans infected with hepatitis C, the CDC found.
An estimated 200,000 New Yorkers are living with Hepatitis C, and it’s an increasing cause of illness and death . But 45 percent to 85 percent of people living with the disease are unaware they have it, since it often shows no symptoms, according to a CDC report.
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver and can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or fatal liver cancer.
“This is truly a life and death matter, and AARP is so pleased that Senator Hannon and Assemblyman Zebrowski won such an important victory for baby boomers,” said Beth Finkel, AARP New York State Director. “Offering a screening test to the thousands of New Yorkers whose lives could be saved or improved is just plain common sense.”
The bill passed the Senate today 63-0. It passed the Assembly 138-1 on June 10.
There have been great advances over the past few years in treatments for hepatitis C and many carrying the disease can be cured.
By increasing testing opportunities, the bill will make more people living with hepatitis C aware of their infection status, get available treatment, and take steps to prevent transmission.
Empowering individuals to know their hepatitis C infection status is an important step toward meeting the public health challenges presented by a disease which is contagious and communicable. Given that many people infected with this disease show no symptoms, testing is a crucial factor in disease prevention.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, urged colleagues this spring to test all baby boomers for hepatitis C.
AARP New York, which advocates on behalf of New Yorkers 50 and older, is calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill into law.
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