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Increase of Hepatitis seen in the Four States - KOAM TV 7

Increase of Hepatitis seen in the Four States

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The number of cases of Hepatitis C in the area has largely increased over the past year says the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Freeman Hospital in Joplin, Dr. Uwe Schmidt.

Recently health officials say they have seen a new case of Hep-C every week and the majority of the patients got it from sharing needles.

Health officials stress it is important to get tested and treated for the disease because there is a cure.

"Initially you have no symptoms and once you develop symptoms, then it's already a little bit late," says Dr. Schmidt.  "Sometimes that may be a sign of liver cirrhosis."

Liver cirrhosis has a high mortality, but Hep-C can also lead to cancer of the liver.

Dr. Schmidt says there are a number of factors that can lead to someone having the disease.

"One risk factor is if they used IV drugs in the past, or at one point if they had mate or important person who tested positive for Hep-C virus - motive of transmotion is from needles," says Dr. Schmidt.

Susan Coop was diagnosed with Hepatitis-C in 2007.

"I imagine I was in my teens when I got it and I just hope I was having a good time because I paid for it dearly," says Coop.  "When I was young, starting at 16, I did do IV drugs and we did share needles.  So I just imagine it was that, you know, because I used them when I was 20, 21 too.  But we didn't share needles at that point because we knew about Hep-C."

Coop sought treatment for the disease and refers to it as her 76 days of Hell.

"There are days I wish I was dead because I was so sick from it," Coop says.  "But I'm glad I got tested.  I tried telling everyone 'go get tested - this is serious - very serious problem.'"

"The treatment is effective but it has a lot of side effects also, so the patients have to be very closely monitored," says Dr. Schmidt.

Coop says she is afraid some day she'll suffer from liver cirrhosis or liver cancer, but for now she has a message for others.

"I learned from all this I can go and tell these young girls and everyone don't share the needles, they are cheap enough where you don't have to share them, you can go to the pharmacy and buy a package - just don't do it," says Coop.

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