For Immediate Release: March 14, 2003
Senator Monson Hopes
Task Force Will Raise
You can carry the virus for years without showing any symptoms. About 85% of those infected will have the virus for the rest of their life. There is no vaccine to protect against it. Those are just a few of the facts compiled by the Centers for Disease Control about Hepatitis C, a disease former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop calls a graver threat to public health in this country than HIV.
In an effort to help educate the public about Hepatitis C, State Senator Angela Monson has authored Senate Bill 785 calling for the State Health Department to create a task force on the disease.
"There wasn't even a reliable screening test for donated blood or organs until 1992. There are probably some Oklahomans who may have been exposed because of a blood transfusion or organ transplant who don't even know it. It's a disease our young people can be at high risk for but most have never even heard of it, even though it can be fatal. That's why it's so important to educate the public about Hepatitis C," explained Monson, D-Oklahoma City.
It's estimated that nearly four million Americans have been infected and are at risk of developing chronic liver disease -- the tenth leading cause of death among adults in the United States. According to the CDC, Hepatitis C-related chronic liver disease is expected to increase substantially during the next 10 to 20 years. Symptoms of Hepatitis C include jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and nausea.
The disease occurs by the transfer of blood or other bodily fluids and can be spread through sharing needles or from accidentally being stuck by a needle. Depending on how clean the equipment is, getting a tattoo or body piercing could also expose someone to the virus.
"Since there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, we need to better educate people so we can at least slow the spread of this disease," said Monson.
SB 785 is now awaiting action by the House Public Health Committee.
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