"Unless you look for hepatitis C and take a specific test for it, no other test will pick it up," Rai said.

Health problems associated with hepatitis C have been increasing for the last decade and are projected to grow even more rapidly in coming years, if the disease is not better controlled, according to the CDC.

Liver cancer is the fastest-rising cause of cancer deaths and the leading cause of liver transplants.

The new epidemiologist in Baltimore will improve on tracking of the disease to determine how big an issue it is in the city. The epidemiologist will also educate residents and identify outbreaks to try to curb the spread of the virus.

The drugs to treat hepatitis C have gotten better through the years. The rate for successful treatment used to be less than 30 percent but is now as high as 80 percent.

The drugs Interferon and Ribavirin have been used in treatment for years and effective for patients with Type 2 and Type 3 of the disease. The most common and most resistant Type 1 now is treatable with a combination of these and one of the newly approved protease inhibitors, Telaprevir and Boceprevir.

The CDC estimates that screening all boomers would reveal an additional 800,000 infected people and save 120,000 lives.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

twitter.com:ankwalker

Hepatitis C Facts

More than 2 million baby boomers affected

Baby boomers account for 75 percent of all cases

More than 15,000 Americans die from disease each year

Can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer

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