Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said more than 2 million U.S. baby boomers are infected with hepatitis C, accounting for more than 75 percent of all American adults living with the virus.
The CDC is issuing draft guidelines proposing that all U.S. baby boomers get a one-time test for the hepatitis C virus.
Baby boomers are five times more likely to be infected than other adults.
More than 15,000 Americans, most of them baby boomers, die each year from hepatitis C-related illness, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, and deaths have been increasing steadily for more than a decade and are projected to grow significantly in coming years, Frieden added.
"With increasingly effective treatments now available, we can prevent tens of thousands of deaths from hepatitis C," Frieden said in a statement.
The CDC estimated one-time hepatitis C testing of baby boomers could identify more than 800,000 additional people with the virus, prevent the costly consequences of liver cancer and other chronic liver diseases and save more than 120,000 lives, Frieden said.