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Hepatitis C Surpasses AIDS As Killer, Hitting Baby-Boom Generations Hardest

By Lynne Adkins

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A new study indicates that one in every 33 baby boomers has the Hepatitis C virus, and many don't even know they have this liver destroying disease.

Federal health officials say Hepatitis C is now killing more people than the AIDS virus, and most are over 45 years of age.

Dr. Robert Bettiker, associate professor of medicine in infectious diseases at Temple University School of Medicine, says that once symptoms appear, the liver is already damaged.

He says the major symptoms include "pain in the right upper quadrant (of your abdomen) that goes on for days or months. Your eyes might turn yellow, you might start bleeding a lot if you get a cut, and the veins in your esophagus can get really big and can rupture."

Dr. Bettiker says if you had a blood transfusion before 1990 (when routine screening for hepatitis C in donated blood began) or have ever used intravenous drugs, you should tell your doctor. A blood test can determine if you've been exposed to the deadly virus, and early treatment could be effective.

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