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Media Advisory


March 10, 2004

Contact:
Alan Franciscus
415-587-8908

Jack Martin
(615) 259-4000

Local Health Care Professionals To Attend Training Program To Combat Hepatitis C
New Orleans Event To Be First "Train the Trainers" Event in the Southeast

NEW ORLEANS – Area media representatives are invited to learn about the “Train the Trainers” program, a two-day seminar providing education and certification to local health educators and professionals who are on the front lines in providing education, support and advocacy for people affected by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

This is the first “Train the Trainers” event in the Southeast. The national program was created by the Hepatitis C Support Project based in San Francisco and is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Roche Pharmaceuticals. The program is co-sponsored locally by the Louisiana Office of Public Health Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program, Siren to Wail, and the NO/AIDS Task Force.
Program representatives and local health officials will be available to address the following:

• The importance of the “Train the Trainers” program in instructing local health care professionals to effectively deal with hepatitis C.
• What hepatitis C is and why is it important for the public to know about the disease.
• The state of hepatitis C in New Orleans and the United States.

Why: An estimated 2.7 million Americans are infected with chronic hepatitis C – nearly 80,000 in Louisiana alone. The case rate of the disease in Louisiana is almost six times higher than the national rate, with males accounting for the majority of those infected. Additionally, New Orleans has one of the highest rates of this potentially deadly disease in the state.

When: Thursday, March 18, and Friday, March 19
8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: NO/AIDS Task Force
2601 Tulane Ave., Suite 500

Who: The following individuals will be available for interview:
• Dr. Raoult Ratard, state epidemiologist, Louisiana Office of Public Health
• Noel Twilbeck, executive director, NO/AIDS Task Force
• Renee Strickland, RN MSN, CFNP of HOPE-C Project

RSVP: For more information and to schedule an interview with a project coordinator representative, please contact Alan Franciscus at 415-587-8908 or Jack Martin at (615) 259-4000.


FACT SHEET: HEPATITIS C

• Hepatitis C (HCV) is a potentially life-threatening infection of the liver transmitted by blood-to-blood contact with infected blood and blood products. The U.S. Government estimates that approximately 4 million Americans were infected with HCV of whom 2.7 million are chronically infected.

• An estimated 8,000-10,000 Americans die annually from complications related to HCV. The number of deaths attributed to HCV is expected to rise to 14,000-19,000 by 2030.

• HCV in the leading reason for liver transplants in the U.S. It is estimated that 5% of Americans infected with hepatitis C will experience liver disease serious enough to require a liver transplant.

• Hepatitis C is often described as a “silent epidemic” because people infected with hepatitis C usually show no symptoms, although they can still be infected and transmit the virus to others. It is estimated that only 25% of hepatitis C cases have been diagnosed. When symptoms are present they can include fatigue, flu-like symptoms, muscle and joint pain and, rarely, jaundice.

• The incubation period (the period of time between initial exposure and the development of symptoms) of hepatitis C is 2 – 26 weeks.

• There are many subtypes of hepatitis C called genotypes. The most common genotypes in the U.S. are genotype 1 (70%) followed by genotypes 2 and 3 (30%). Genotype information is important because it can help predict HCV medical treatment response.

• Hepatitis C infection is characterized by inflammation and/or swelling of the liver and may lead to progressive liver disease resulting in cirrhosis, liver cancer and death. The most common symptoms include fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, and nausea.

• The most common transmission routes are sharing infected used needles and drug preparation tools, and receiving blood or blood products prior to 1992. Sexual transmission is uncommon between stable monogamous sexual partners. Mother to child transmission occurs less than 5% of the time. Less common but possible transmission routes include tattooing, piercing and sharing during nasal cocaine/crank use.

• For about 1 in 10 people with hepatitis C, it is not known how they became infected.

• Hepatitis C can be identified through blood tests that detect the presence of antibodies to hepatitis C. If these tests are positive a hepatitis C viral load test will confirm the presence of hepatitis C in the blood.

• There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

• The current standard of care for treating hepatitis C is a combination of pegylated interferon and ribavirin. Other treatment options include interferon monotherapy and interferon (non-pegylated) in combination with ribavirin. The goals of anti-HCV therapy are viral elimination, improved liver health and the slowing down or stopping of disease progression.

• Current HCV medications can eliminate the virus in up to 50% of people treated with hepatitis C medications. Some physicians believe that hepatitis C can be cured in some patients.

• The Hepatitis C Epidemic Control and Prevention Act is pending before the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. This proposal is the first coordinated response to the prevention and control of hepatitis C. Senate bill S.1143 was introduced by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA). House of Representatives bill H.R. 3539 was introduced by Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Edolphus Towns (D-NY).


Hepatitis C Glossary

ACUTE: a rapid-onset, short-term initial stage of a disease.

ACUTE HEPATITIS: the initial stage of viral hepatitis following infection. In HCV, acute hepatitis refers to the first six months of infection.

ANEMIA: reduced number of red blood cells or reduced ability of blood to carry oxygen. There are several types of anemia, all with different causes. Symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, and difficulty breathing.

ANTIBODY: a protein produced by the immune system when a foreign substance enters the body. The presence of antibodies is an indicator of a past or possibly current infection. HCV antibodies are written as anti-HCV. The test for anti-HCV must be followed by other laboratory tests in order to confirm the diagnosis. The antibody test alone is not sufficient to make a diagnosis of chronic HCV infection.

ALANINE AMINOTRANSFERASE abbreviation for ALT: ALT is an enzyme produced inside liver cells. It is frequently elevated in people with chronic HCV infection. Serum ALT levels are measured using a common blood test.

ASYMPTOMATIC: not feeling or showing outward symptoms or signs of a disease.

BIOPSY: a procedure in which a sample of cells or tissue is taken for examination in a laboratory. In HCV, liver biopsies are used to monitor the health of the liver.

BLOOD BORNE: a pathogen that is transmitted through direct blood-to-blood contact.

CHRONIC LIVER DISEASE: a long-term or persistent liver disease that may lead to progressive destruction of the liver.

CIRRHOSIS: a type of liver damage in which normal liver cells are replaced with scar tissue. In cirrhosis, liver function is severely impaired and scar tissue interferes with normal blood flow through the liver.

COINFECTED: refers to infection with two or more different disease-causing organisms.

EFFICACY: effectiveness; the ability to achieve a desired effect.

FIBROSIS: liver damage that involves the development of fibrous scar tissue.

FULMINANT HEPATITIS: a severe, life-threatening form of hepatitis.

GASTROENTEROLOGY: the medical specialty that deals with the digestive system; a gastroenterologist treats digestive diseases.

GENOTYPE: genetic variation in the structure of HCV. There are six major genotypes, designated by the numbers 1 through 6.

HCV RNA: the genetic material of the hepatitis C virus. HCV is a single-stranded ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus.

HEMOPHILIA: a hereditary disease in which a person does not produce sufficient blood clotting factors and is prone to prolonged bleeding.

HEPATIC: relating to the liver.

HEPATITIS: inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis may have various causes, including viruses, toxins, and heavy alcohol consumption.

HEPATOCELLULAR CARCINOMA (HCC): a type of primary liver cancer seen in some people with long-term liver damage due to chronic hepatitis C or hepatitis B.

HEPATOLOGY: the medical specialty that deals with the liver; a hepatologist treats liver disease.

HEPATOTOXICITY: toxic or poisonous to the liver.

HISTOLOGICAL: refers to bodily tissue. In HCV, histological improvement means improvement in liver tissue, either reduced inflammation or reduced fibrosis.

INTERFERON: a naturally occurring protein in the human body produced by the immune system. Interferon interferes with viral replication. Genetically engineered products based on the natural protein have been developed by several pharmaceutical companies, and are approved for the treatment of chronic HCV infection.

JAUNDICE: yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes due to high bilirubin levels in the blood. Jaundice is often a sign of liver damage or gallbladder disease.

LIVER: a large organ on the upper right side of the abdomen that plays an important role in the metabolism of sugars and fats, synthesizes several proteins, and filters toxins from the blood.

NON-NUCLEOSIDE REVERSE TRANSCRIPTASE INHIBITOR (NNRTI): an antiviral drug that suppresses viral replication by interfering with the action of the reverse transcriptase enzyme. Ribavirin is an NNRTI.

PEGYLATED INTERFERON: a form of interferon that has a long half-life in the body and can be injected less often (typically once per week). Pegylated interferon is approved for the treatment of HCV.

RIBAVIRIN: an antiviral medication that is used in combination with interferon for the treatment of chronic HCV infection.

RIBONUCLEIC ACID (RNA): a single-stranded nucleic acid that encodes genetic information. The presence of viral RNA in the blood indicates that a virus is actively replicating. Hepatitis C is an RNA virus.

SUBCUTANEOUS (SQ): underneath the skin; usually refers to a drug injected under the skin.

SUSTAINED RESPONDER (SVR): a person who maintains a long-term response to treatment. In HCV, a sustained responder has a long-term beneficial result from HCV treatment (non-detectable HCV RNA) that persists after treatment has been stopped (six months is the generally accepted time interval).

TRANSMISSION: spread of a pathogenic organism from one person to another.

TRANSPLANT: surgical transfer of an organ from one person to another.

VIRAL LOAD: the amount of virus (i.e., the HCV RNA level) that can be measured, usually in the blood.

VIRUS: a microscopic infectious particle that invades a living organism and makes copies of itself (viral replication).


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