DENVER -- One in 30 baby boomers is infected with hepatitis C, and most don't even know it, according to a recent alarming statistic released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC officials say the disease, transmitted through blood, can survive for three weeks on surfaces at room temperature. According to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials, the number of cases in Colorado are increasing as well.
Experts worry that baby boomers don't realize they have the disease, which is caused by a virus that attacks the liver. While doctors are trying to get a handle on one epidemic, another is developing that coincides with growing opioid abuse across the country.
Kimberley Bossley lost her mom to hepatitis C, but she's beat it too.
"There's really no words to say in the final hours, it's a painful disease. It's not a way to go,” said Bossley. "At birth, both my mom and I were infected during a blood transfusion, that later we learned in 2005 was tainted with hepatitis C."
Before the early 90's, blood supplies in the U.S. were not screened for hepatitis C. That's partly why two thirds of people living with the disease are baby boomers, according to Daniel Shodell, the Medical Director of Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology with CDHPE. CDC officials also say sharing needles or equipment used to prepare or inject drugs, even if only once in the past, could spread hepatitis C.
"If we can diagnose and treat enough people with hepatitis C, what we are doing in technical terms is reducing the reservoir," said Shodell.
Part of the problem is that many people don't show symptoms until the late stages.
"Maybe 25 percent of people will show symptoms; fever, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, other symptoms, but most won’t know they've acquired hep C."
And for years, the treatments were almost unbearable. Bossley tried them until a clinical trial came through. Now there have been major advances made, but still a risk exists and is increasing as more cases pop-up with opioid abuse growing.
"It's not just heroine, it’s not just limited to those counties where we are seeing heroin overdose deaths, but it’s related to overall trends in opioid use in Colorado," said Shodell.
Bossley started a foundation named after her late mother, the Bonnie Morgan Foundation for HCV, to help spread awareness. She's been officially cured at the University of Colorado Hospital and she wants the same opportunity for others.
"I just made it my mission to put a face to hep C and to let people know that the earlier the detection, the better."
The CDC recommends baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965, or anyone that is currently injecting drugs or has in the past, also get tested.