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NYS Blazes Trail on Baby Boomer Health; First to Ensure Hep C Screen Test Offered

Contact: Erik Kriss  

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200K NYers May Have the Potentially Deadly Disease But Many Don’t Know It

ALBANY, NY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made New York a national leader in protecting baby boomers’ health by signing an AARP-backed bill requiring that health care providers offer boomers a screening test for potentially deadly hepatitis C.

New York will become the first state in the nation to ensure boomers are offered the important, preventative test.

The new Hepatitis C law ( S2750A/ A1286), sponsored by Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-New City), requires screening tests be offered to people born between 1945 and 1965 when seeing their primary care doctor and receiving hospital inpatient and outpatient care.

Many baby boomers across New York have hepatitis C without even knowing it. 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.

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.

The CDC recognized AARP New York’s advocacy of the bill in July by presenting an award for State Director Beth Finkel at a reception on the White House grounds in Washington, D.C. The reception at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building was part of World Hepatitis Day events sponsored by the White House Offices of National AIDS Policy and National Drug Control Policy.

Offering a screening test to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers whose lives could be saved or improved is common sense and good preventive medicine,” said Beth Finkel, AARP New York State Director. “AARP applauds Governor Cuomo for making New York a national leader on this critical issue by signing this bill into law.”

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 new law – which takes effect Jan. 1, 2014 - 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 that 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 last spring to test all baby boomers for hepatitis C.
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