This is a guest post from Felice J. Freyer, a medical writer at The Providence (R.I.) Journal. Freyer, an AHCJ board member, is one of 11 AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows visiting the CDC this week.
One in 30 people born between 1945 and 1965 – the Baby Boom generation – suffer from hepatitis C, a viral infection that can lead to liver cancer.
But the majority of infected people don’t know they have it.
That may change soon, and journalists should keep their ears perked for developments that will lead to good stories about hepatitis, Dr. John Ward, director of the Viral Hepatitis Program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows this morning.
The CDC is in the process of developing screening guidelines in the hope of encouraging more people to get tested for hepatitis C. Current guidelines call for asking people about risk factors, such as intravenous drug use, that many may not want to disclose or consider part of their distant past, Ward said. The new guidelines may be based on age and other factors rather than just behaviors, he said.
Additionally, the FDA is considering approval of a new, more effective drug against hepatitis C. “We are on the cusp of a revolution in hepatitis C treatment,” Ward said.
The 11 AHCJ-CDC fellows today completed the third of four days at the CDC, where they have met with CDC experts on food-borne illness, diabetes, influenza, health care-acquired infections and other topics, as well as touring the CDC emergency operations center and laboratories in Atlanta.
Other dispatches from the AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows: