The virus now infects an estimated 3.5 million Americans, and in 2014, it killed 19,659 – the highest number of people in the country to die from this liver-damaging disease, CNN reports.
The liver-damaging virus primarily is spread by injecting drug use. New drugs can cure most hepatitis C infections in 12 weeks, but half the infected people in the United States do not know they are living with the virus.
“This is a very alarming trend,” Dr. John W. Ward, director of CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, told CBS News.
Ward says many baby boomers were infected in the years after World War II when injection and blood transfusion technologies still carried the virus.
Baby boomers — those born from 1945 to 1965 — carry the greatest burden associated with the disease, as many have been unknowingly living with it for years. In 2013, over 50 percent of hepatitis C-related deaths occurred among people aged 55 to 64.