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New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today signed a new law that will better protect baby boomer New Yorkers from hepatitis C by requiring hospitals and health service providers to offer testing for the virus to all patients born between 1945 and 1965.
"Hepatitis C is a debilitating and potentially fatal disease that disproportionately affects the baby boomer generation in New York and nationwide," Cuomo says. "This new law will help fight Hepatitis C and keep New Yorkers safe by providing testing to those most likely to have this virus whenever they visit a medical facility. I thank Senator Hannon and Assembly Member Zebrowski for their work on this important legislation."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 75 percent of hepatitis C infection and about 73 percent of hepatitis C-associated mortality occurs in individuals born between 1945 and 1965 baby boomers. New York State Department of Health statistics show that as many as 150,000 New Yorkers are unaware of their hepatitis C status. The new law (A.1286-A/S.2750-A) will ensure that all individuals born between 1945 and 1965 are offered a hepatitis C screening test or diagnostic test whenever they are a patient at a hospital, clinic or a physician's office.
Sen. Kemp Hannon notes, "I applaud the Governor for acknowledging this public health crisis and signing this bill into law. Nationwide, approximately three million adults are infected with the hepatitis C virus, most are baby boomers and three out of four are unaware they are infected. By requiring healthcare providers to offer hepatitis C testing, as recommended by the CDC, we have an opportunity to protect individuals from the leading cause of liver disease, and to treat and cure those who have been infected before they become seriously ill.
"Hepatitis C is known as the 'silent killer' because it can attack your liver for more than a decade before you exhibit any symptoms," says Assemblymember Kenneth Zebrowski. "Recent estimates suggest that 1 out of 30 baby boomers could be infected with as many as 75 percent unaware. My father passed away from hepatitis C in 2007, and my family experienced first hand the lack of information and knowledge surrounding this epidemic. This one time test will bring the disease out of the darkness and get thousands of New Yorkers lifesaving treatment before it is too late."
The new law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.