Bryce D. Smith, PhD1, Rebecca L. Morgan, MPH1 , Geoff A. Beckett, PA-C, MPH1, Yngve Falck-Ytter, MD2, Deborah Holtzman, PhD1, Chong-Gee Teo, MD, PhD1, Amy Jewett, MPH3, Brittney Baack, MPH3, David B. Rein, PhD4, Nita Patel, PhD6, Miriam Alter, PhD5, Anthony Yartel, MPH6, John W. Ward, MD1

1Division of Viral Hepatitis, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
2Case Western Reserve University, Case and VA Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio
3Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
4NORC at the University of Chicago, Atlanta, Georgia
5University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas
6Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation
MMWR 2012;61(RR04); 1-18

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an increasing cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Many of the 2.7–3.9 million persons living with HCV infection are unaware they are infected and do not receive care (e.g., education, counseling, and medical monitoring) and treatment. CDC estimates that although persons born during 1945–1965 comprise an estimated 27% of the population, they account for approximately three fourths of all HCV infections in the United States, 73% of HCV-associated mortality, and are at greatest risk for hepatocellular carcinoma and other HCV-related liver disease. With the advent of new therapies that can halt disease progression and provide a virologic cure (i.e., sustained viral clearance following completion of treatment) in most persons, targeted testing and linkage to care for infected persons in this birth cohort is expected to reduce HCV-related morbidity and mortality. CDC is augmenting previous recommendations for HCV testing (CDC. Recommendations for prevention and control of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and HCV-related chronic disease. MMWR 1998;47[No. RR–19]) to recommend one-time testing without prior ascertainment of HCV risk for persons born during 1945–1965, a population with a disproportionately high prevalence of HCV infection and related disease. Persons identified as having HCV infection should receive a brief screening for alcohol use and intervention as clinically indicated, followed by referral to appropriate care for HCV infection and related conditions. These recommendations do not replace previous guidelines for HCV testing that are based on known risk factors and clinical indications. Rather, they define an additional target population for testing: persons born during 1945–1965. CDC developed these recommendations with the assistance of a work group representing diverse expertise and perspectives. The recommendations are informed by the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) framework, an approach that provides guidance and tools to define the research questions, conduct the systematic review, assess the overall quality of the evidence, and determine strength of the recommendations. This report is intended to serve as a resource for health-care professionals, public health officials, and organizations involved in the development, implementation, and evaluation of prevention and clinical services. These recommendations will be reviewed every 5 years and updated to include advances in the published evidence.

The following recommendations for HCV testing are intended to augment the Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Infection and HCV-Related Chronic Disease issued by CDC in 1998 (8). In addition to testing adults of all ages at risk for HCV infection, CDC recommends that:

  • Adults born during 1945–1965 should receive one-time testing for HCV without prior ascertainment of HCV risk (Strong Recommendation, Moderate Quality of Evidence), and
  • All persons identified with HCV infection should receive a brief alcohol screening and intervention as clinically indicated, followed by referral to appropriate care and treatment services for HCV infection and related conditions (Strong Recommendation, Moderate Quality of Evidence).

Providers and patients can discuss HCV testing as part of an individual’s preventive health care. For persons identified with HCV infection, CDC recommends that they receive appropriate care, including HCV-directed clinical preventive services (e.g., screening for alcohol use, hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccination as appropriate, and medical monitoring of disease). Recommendations are available to guide treatment decisions (31). Treatment decisions should be made by the patient and provider after several factors are considered, including stage of disease, hepatitis C genotype, comorbidities, therapy-related adverse events, and benefits of treatment.