sioux falls, sd
If you were born between 1946 and 1964, we have a health alert for you: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that anyone who is considered a "Baby Boomer" be screened for Hepatitis C.
That's because research has shown that the generation has a higher risk of developing Hepatitis C during their lifetime.
62-year-old Greg Hays never expected to be diagnosed with Hepatitis C. But just three years ago, a routine blood test for diabetes revealed he would battle the liver-destroying virus.
"It's a scary disease. They did a biopsy. My liver damage was stage four, which is considered very serious, end stage they call that actually. But still through all of that I had no symptoms," Hays said.
Hays' case is not unusual, which is exactly why doctors at Avera say you should come in and get tested.
"The only way we can know is with a simple blood test. So, 50 percent of people with Hepatitis C don't even know it," Dr. Hesham Elgouhari said.
Last year, Hays' symptoms became so serious his doctor prescribed a cocktail of pills to fight the disease.
"It presented some challenges, nothing that can't be overcome though. I finished the treatment in September. My blood work is coming out great," Hays said.
Despite the ups and downs of treatment, Hays is keeping a positive attitude.
"I'm optimistic we are going to cure this thing," Hays said.
While Hepatitis C affects everyone differently, catching it early can make all the difference because it's different from its "sister diseases."
"Hep C is unique in that it is the only chronic disease that we could cure. No other chronic virus illness can be cured," Elgouhari said.
One of the groups at highest risk for Hep C is Hays' group: Baby Boomers. According to Elgouhari everyone in that group is at risk and should get tested because unfortunately they don't know how they are contracting it.
"No one knows exactly why, why the risk factors or why the prevalence of Hep C in this age group is higher than the rest," Elgouhari said.
No matter what your age, doctors recommend getting tested at least once in your life. Hays also has a bit advice for those who are diagnosed.
"People need not be afraid of this disease. If they test positive, it's treatable," Hays said.
Avera McKennan is holding a free screening for Hepatitis C Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Plaza 3 on the hospital's campus.