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CHC/SEK Free Hepatitis C Testing for Baby Boomers - May 19 - KOAM TV 7

CHC/SEK Free Hepatitis C Testing for Baby Boomers - May 19

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(Pittsburg, KS) – Men and women who were born between 1945 and 1965 – commonly referred to as the baby boomer generation – can receive free Hepatitis C testing on Saturday, May 19 at the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, 3011 N. Michigan in Pittsburg. Funding for the event is being provided by the Women's Giving Circle, a fund of the Rita J. Bicknell Women's Health Fund of the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Foundation.

CHC/SEK is hosting the event as part of National Hepatitis Testing Day to raise awareness about the risks of Hepatitis C, especially among baby boomers who are five times more likely to have it than other adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 75 percent of the estimated 3.5 million Americans living with chronic Hepatitis C were born during the baby boomer years.

Although it is not completely understood why baby boomers have higher rates of Hepatitis C, Dr. Julie Stewart — who oversees CHC/SEK's Hepatitis Treatment Program — says there are likely a number of reasons. "Many are believed to have contracted it from medical procedures or blood transfusions during surgery," said Dr. Stewart. "Widespread screening of blood for Hepatitis C was not common until after 1992 putting an entire generation at risk."

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by a virus that is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person. While some people are able to get rid of the virus without treatment, most develop a chronic or lifelong infection which can lead to serious liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer or even death if left untreated.

"The longer someone with Hepatitis C goes without treatment, the more likely they are to develop serious health problems." said Dr. Stewart. Dr. Stewart added that the real danger of Hepatitis C is the silent nature of the disease as 75 percent of those with the disease can live for decades without any symptoms or feeling sick. "Unfortunately, the vast majority of cases go undetected until the damage is done," she said. "That's why getting tested is so critical." Dr. Stewart went on to add that common symptoms of Hepatitis C include yellowing skin and eyes, dark urine, light-colored stools, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and extreme fatigue. The initial test – which requires blood be drawn – will show whether someone has ever been infected with the virus. Anyone testing positive will receive follow up testing to determine if the virus is still present and, if it is, will be connected to a treatment program. All results will be confidential.

Dr. Stewart noted that treatment is available locally that can cure Hepatitis C for many but stressed the importance of early detection. "Early detection is the key so treatment can begin as soon as possible," urged Dr. Stewart. "And the only way to know if you have Hepatitis C is to get tested."

CHC/SEK is the only public health provider in southeast Kansas offering testing and treatment for Hepatitis C regardless of income or insurance status.

The free testing event begins at 8 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m. with no appointment necessary and is open to men and women born between 1945 and 1965.

Following Saturday's event, CHC/SEK will also offer free Hepatitis C testing through the end of May during regular business hours at the Pittsburg location as well as the clinics at 2990 Military Ave. in Baxter Springs and 120 West Pine in Columbus.

For more information about the National Hepatitis Testing Day event or CHC/SEK's Hepatitis Treatment Program, call 620-231-9873.

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