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Panel recommends baby boomers be screened for Hepatitis C

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DENVER -- Celebrities like Pamela Anderson admit publicly that they have Hepatitis C -- a disease that attacks the liver.

While many respond well to the latest drug therapies, more than 15,000 Americans die from the disease each year.

Experts say about 2.2 million Americans with Hepatitis C are baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965.

Now the United States Preventive Services Task Force and the Centers For Disease Control is recommending that anyone in that age range be screened.  That means that under the new health law, many insurance plans will have to cover the test free of charge.

Hepatitis is transmitted through the blood.  High risk groups include those who have used injected drugs, had unprotected sex or had a blood transfusion before 1992.

Urva Hannegan of the Hep. C Connection organization in Denver says focusing on baby boomers is a good thing.

"They are much more likely to have hepatitis C than any other age group and we do hope this age based recommendation wil' hopefully get more people in because there is a stigma," Hannegan said.

Rich Arno said he developed Hepatitis C after sharing needles.

He said when he learned of the diagnosis “at first it was a little daunting, then I got accurate information and realized it's not a death sentence.”

In fact, after taking medication, Rich tested as virus free several months later.

Hannegan said the key is to diagnose the disease as early as possible.

“It'll help you prevent further liver damage if you catch your infection early,” Hannegan said.

For more information about free testing in Denver you can visit hepc-connection.org