Group seeks more support

Group seeks more support

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior editor

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Americans will die this year from complications related to Hepatitis C infection. The U.S. death toll from this disease is expected to triple within the next 15 years.

That is among some of the grim facts behind an evening of fun and music planned this Saturday at Verdi Hall, 782 N. Madison St. at 7:30 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the Rock River Valley Hepatitis C Support Network, a group founded in August of 1999. Membership is a little more than 100.

Its purpose is to furnish support and information about the disease, to increase awareness of the ailment and to be active in seeking more resources, both funds and education, according to spokesman Jeff Tietz.

The support group has two meeting places. In odd numbered months, they meet at the Harlem United Methodist Church at 8401 N. Alpine Rd. In even numbered months, the meetings take place at Brooke Road United Methodist Church, 1404 Brooke Road. Meeting times are 6:45 p.m. and 9 p.m.

It also operates a 24 hour message service for information and aid to victims of Hepatitis C. The number is (815) 391-5100.

Tietz said estimates of Americans infected total 4 million, and less than half that number know they have Hepatitis C. The disease is of viral origin, but there is no vaccine at present. The virus also is capable of mutating or changing its form, which makes a cure more difficult.

Tietz said it can take 20 to 30 years for symptoms to appear in an individual, and by that time the damage is done. He said the disease is the principal cause of liver transplants.

There are many causes of the infection. The U.S. Surgeon General advises that a person should be tested for Hepatitis C if: he or she has used illegal drugs, even if only a few times years ago; if the person had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992; if the individual received a blood product in treatment of a clotting problem before 1987; if there has been long-term kidney dialysis; if you’ve been stuck by an infected needle; or if the person was born to a mother who had the disease.

In rare cases, the disease can be acquired by having sex with an infected partner, especially if either of you have other sexually transmitted diseases.

Tietz said it also has been learned recently that tattooing and body piercing are many times sources of this infection.

The support group has brought in several guest speakers in the past to provide information on the disease, treatments and other aspects. They have conducted numerous seminars and sponsored the appearance of a national expert on Hepatitis C.

Tietz said the organization is contacting Rep. Don Manzullo to try to get more federal support for research. He said more is spent on HIV research than on Hepatitis C investigation, although Hepatitis C affects many more people.

If you have questions about Hepatitis C or suspect you may have been infected, contact the group at 391-5100.

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