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Hepatitis C screening offers would be required by new law

mulroe-hepcSPRINGFIELD – For those born between the years of 1945 and 1965, doctors will be required to offer Hepatitis C screenings to patients under a new proposal from Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago). The measure passed the Senate today.

“Hepatitis C is known as the silent killer because, most often, by the time a patient is diagnosed, the disease has already done widespread damage,” Mulroe said. “By requiring this screening, we are able to spare compounded illness and pain to those people who may have the disease but don’t know it.”

Patients born between 1945 and 1965, also known as baby boomers, are at the most risk for contracting Hepatitis C. Due to the long maturation period of the disease, symptoms, complications and an affirmative diagnosis are often not seen in people until they have been living with Hepatitis C for 20 years or longer.

Under the plan, if a patient in this age range asks for the test, doctors would be required to include it as part of the normal blood testing that occurs with routine physical exams. Doctor would also be obligated to ask patients in the at-risk age range if they would like such testing done.

While the baby boomer generation is most at-risk of having contracted Hepatitis C, within that group, individuals who may have had blood transfusions or healthcare and emergency workers who may have come into contact with accidental needle pricks are at a high risk of contraction. Illinois would become the second state to have legislation like this after New York, and the proposal would also mandate IDPH to develop a public health campaign to raise awareness about the disease.

“The human cost of a disease like Hepatitis C is immeasurable but if there is any way to reduce that then it is our duty to pursue those paths,” Mulroe said. “This legislation will save lives through screenings and sharing the knowledge of this disease. Hopefully through mandating these screenings we will be able to save these people and their families time, heartache and money.”

Senate Bill 661 passed by a 33 to 19 vote and will be now be heard by the House.

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