Legislators are bringing awareness to the dangers of Hepatitis C in Springfield by partnering with community advocates and Hepatitis C experts to promote screenings for those who are at risk and are working to ensure access to treatment for those who need it.
State Representative Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago), chairman of the Hepatitis C Task Force is sponsoring House Resolution 214 to explain the dangers of the silent epidemic that is Hepatitis C. The resolution also declares May as Hepatitis C Awareness Month.
Because of the significant health implications from Hepatitis C, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a one-time screening for all baby boomers (those born between 1945-1965).
“Baby boomers have the highest at risk factors for Hepatitis C, but we are seeing an upswing in the younger population due to an increase in Heroin use,” McAuliffe said. “Because about 75% of the infected population is unaware that they are infected with Hepatitis C, screenings are incredibly important.”
Hepatitis C is an epidemic that affects nearly 3.2 million people in the United States alone. Hepatitis C can be spread and contracted by infected blood or body fluids, anyone with a blood transfusion before 1992 and veterans from Vietnam.
"Knowledge is power," said Senator Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry). "As many of my friends and family grow older, I am reminded of how important it is that we inform people about the risks and symptoms of the Hepatitis C virus. The more that people know about this deadly virus, the stronger our fight is against it."
“Hepatitis C is a silent killer and as such often goes untreated until it is too late,” said Senator John G. Mulroe (D-Chicago), who is chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee. “That is why I am sponsoring SB661 in effort to get Hepatitis C screenings covered by providers, making it easier to get them and hopefully saving lives in the process.”
In addition to the nearly 3.2 million people in the United States who have the disease, about 150 million people are chronically infected worldwide. Undiagnosed and untreated hepatitis C can damage the liver to the point where a transplant becomes necessary.
"There are thousands of adults in Chicago and cook county living with chronic Hepatitis C infection many of whom receive care in the Cook county health and hospitals system (CCHHS). With new, highly effective medications that can cure over 90% of treated patients available, we need to continue to advocate for support and funds to educate patients and the communities we serve, test for HCV in variety of settings, link patients to care and treat and cure diagnosed patients successfully. Advocating for and ensuring equal access to HCV medications is a priority. By doing this we can significantly decrease ongoing HCV Transmission, prevent many complications of liver disease and improve the quality of life of many adults living with HCV in Illinois,” said Dr. Toyin Adeyemi of Rush/ Cook County Hospital.
For more information about Hepatitis C or to find a screening location near you, please visit the American Liver Foundation website http://hepc.liverfoundation.org/ or http://caringambassadors.org/ or call the toll free Hepatitis C helpline 800-GO-LIVER (800-465-4837).
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