By Rick Karlin | Thursday, June 20, 2013
Albany – If approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, baby boomers may be asked a new question when they go for medical check-ups: Do you want a hepatitis C test?
The Senate on Thursday passed a measure, earlier approved by the Assembly, that would require primary care physicians and hospitals to offer the test to their patients.
It would apply to baby boomers — those born between 1945 and 1965.
The measure, sponsored by Republican Sen.Kemp Hannon, who chairs the health committee, and Democratic AssemblymanKenneth Zebrowski, was backed by a broad coalition including AARP, Vocal NY and the pharmaceutical industry.
They overcame objections by the state Medical Society, which believes there is insufficient evidence to support testing.
Those in favor of the bill, though, cited estimates that up to 200,000 New Yorkers could have hepatitis C without realizing it because they haven’t yet felt the symptoms.
“The challenge is a person can live with hepatitis C for decades before they show any symptoms,” said Sean Barry of Vocal NY.
Once they set in, the symptoms are similar to the other better-known hepatitis B, including jaundice and liver damage.
The disease can be fatal but is treatable if diagnosed in time.
“This is truly a life and death matter,” said Beth Finkel, AARP’s New York State director.
The disease can be transmitted by blood transfusions done before 1992 (after which there was screening) or sharing of needles, said Barry.