May Recognized As Hepatitis C Awareness Month

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

May 1, 2006

Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has designated May as Hepatitis C Awareness Month in Michigan.

“Hepatitis C poses a significant threat to the health of Michigan residents,” said Janet Olszewski, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. “Public awareness and education is key to preventing this disease which ravages the liver.”

In recognition of this month, an educational program entitled “Hepatitis C: The Vision and the Voices” will be held for Michigan legislators and policymakers. The event, which is being co-sponsored by the American Liver Foundation – Michigan Chapter, Hepatitis C and Me, the Michigan Department of Community Health, and the Michigan Hepatitis C Foundation, will take place in Conference Rooms A, B, and C of the Capitol View Building on May 25th from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

“Hepatitis C: The Vision and the Voices” will present an overview of the disease of hepatitis C and will provide insights into the impact of this disease on individuals and the broader community. There will also be a delineation of the continuum of services that are needed to effectively address this disease.

Hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne infection with an estimated 160,000 Michigan residents currently infected with the virus that causes this disease. Seventy-five to 85 percent of individuals infected with the virus go on to develop chronic infection, which can result in damage to the liver, end-stage liver disease, and death.

The disease causes few, if any, symptoms making it hard for early detection. It is estimated that sixty to seventy percent of individuals infected with the virus do not know they are infected. Roughly 50 percent of individuals who are treated for hepatitis C will clear the virus from their body and for others, risk of progression can be prevented or delayed through early detection, appropriate medical management, and behavior change.

“Individuals who are infected with hepatitis C should be further evaluated by a physician,” says Dr. Peter Gulick, Director of the HIV/Hepatitis Clinic at Michigan State University and one of the presenters for the planned educational program. “This evaluation can help determine the extent of liver damage and can be used to make decisions regarding whether treatment is indicated.”

For more information on the education forum, please contact Lori Stegmier, Michigan Department of Community Health - Hepatitis Planning Coordinator at (517) 335-9435.