It is unconscionable that thousands of NYS residents are sick and dying every year because they don’t know they have hepatitis C when it can be identified by a simple blood test and treated.
Albany, NY (PRWEB) March 14, 2012
Status C Unknown, a non-profit 501(c)3 today led hundreds of patients and advocates from around New York State to Albany for the sixth annual Hepatitis C Legislative Awareness Day, urging lawmakers to adopt a plan for 2013 to combat the increasing incidence of hepatitis C infection in New York State with education, testing and treatment programs. The request comes just weeks after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported that more Americans died from hepatitis C than from HIV in 2010 and that 1 in 33 baby boomers are likely infected.
Hepatitis C, which can be detected by a simple blood test, is a chronic viral infection that causes liver disease and affects approximately 300,000 New York State residents (CDC, NYS Department of Health). Because it is often asymptomatic or “silent,” most people don’t know they’re infected until they have serious liver damage. With early detection and new treatments, up to 75% of people with hepatitis C can now be cured.
“It is unconscionable that thousands of NYS residents are sick and dying every year because they don’t know they have hepatitis C when it can be identified by a simple blood test and treated,” said Shari Foster, founder of Status C Unknown and a Long Island, NY resident, who was unaware she had hepatitis C until she went into liver failure and nearly died from internal bleeding. “We know that budgets are tight, but hepatitis C is taking a personal and financial toll on our state, and evidence shows that intervention not only reduces suffering but is also cost-effective. We need to have a comprehensive plan in place.”
Advocates also urged lawmakers to maintain the current budget for hepatitis C education, testing and treatment and to approve additional funds being proposed by the Health Disparities Work Group of the New York State Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT).
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D – New City) spoke to a group of the advocates, patients and fellow legislators about how his father, Assemblyman Kenneth P. Zebrowski, died from liver disease resulting from hepatitis C in 2007 at the age of 61 – he had been infected for 23 years before being diagnosed. Since being elected to his father’s seat, Zebrowski has worked to increase state initiatives to help detect, treat and prevent hepatitis C and requested renewed support from fellow lawmakers.
“It is so important that we have advocacy, awareness and support each and every year to assist families in dealing with this disease,” said Zebrowski. “We need to help ensure that at-risk New Yorkers get tested for hepatitis C so they can benefit from available and effective treatment.”
“I applaud the Governor’s proposed funding increase through the MRT to promote hepatitis C care and treatment and help bring this disease out of the shadows,” he added. “Our work is not done -- I will continue to advocate for increased funding for treatment and research, more available testing and improved awareness of this little-known disease.”
About Hepatitis C
According to the CDC, an estimated 3.2 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Most people do not know they are infected because they don’t look or feel sick. There are about 17,000 new cases of infection each year. Chronic hepatitis C can result in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death. It is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the U.S. Approximately 8,000–10,000 people die every year from hepatitis C-related liver disease.
There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, which is spread primarily through infected blood. It can be detected with a blood test, and an FDA-approved rapid fingerstick test can detect antibodies to the virus. Treatments are available and new therapies are actively being developed. More information: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/cFAQ.htm
In 2010, the NYS Department of Health (DOH) issued “NYS Viral Hepatitis Strategic Plan 2010 – 2015,” which includes a strategic framework for prevention, education, surveillance/research and treatment of hepatitis C. http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/hepatitis/strategic/background_rationale_hepatitis_c.htm
About Status C Unknown
Status C Unknown is a non-profit 501 c 3 that was founded by Long Island resident Shari Foster, who was successfully treated for hepatitis C in 2005. The mission of the organization is to raise awareness about hepatitis C to help reduce transmission and increase testing and provide patient support. More information at http://www.statuscunknown.org
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