Smith says that testing is very inexpensive, and is generally covered under health plans. Treatment for the disease, however, may cost $60,000 and coverage depends on the health plan. The good news is that newer drugs have been shown to eradicate the virus in three out of four chronically infected patients.
CDC recommendations issued in 1998 for hepatitis C testing were limited only to those people with specific risk factors such as high-risk sexual activity, injection drug use or exposure to potentially infected blood or hemodialysis, or had laboratory evidence of liver disease.
Capturing additional infected individuals may save lives and reduce progression of liver damage. For example, since use of alcohol may exacerbate clinical symptoms of hepatitis C, patients who know they are infected may be counseled to reduce consumption.
The guidelines and fact sheet are published in the Aug. 17 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and in this week's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.