UW News

December 6, 1999

Media Advisory: Hepatitis C Coalition formed to make people aware of ‘silent epidemic’

What: News conference by the newly formed Hepatitis C Coalition to discuss key findings from a statewide public awareness survey about a largely unknown, but potentially deadly, disease. This briefing comes on the heels of last week’s state House Health Care Committee hearing on hepatitis C, and a report by the state Department of Corrections on hepatitis C in prisons.

When: 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8, 1999.

Dr. Robert Carithers Jr., coalition medical advisory board chairman; chief hepatologist, UW Medical Center.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, chief, Communicable Disease Control & Epidemiology,

Public Health ? Seattle & King County
Barbara Hernandez, director, American Liver Foundation Pacific Northwest Chapter
Steve Graham, president of the board, Hepatitis Education Project, and a hepatitis C patient.

Where: University of Washington Medical Center, 1959 NE Pacific St., Seattle, Room EE 424 (4th Floor Conference Room, Liver Transplant Services)

Background: Nearly 100,000 Washingtonians may have hepatitis C, a potentially deadly liver disease, and 75,000 of them may not even know it (based on national averages).

Despite the disease?s significant health threat, a recent survey shows that, while one in six Washington residents knows someone who has hepatitis C, fully two-thirds (65 percent) of those surveyed are unaware that hepatitis C is potentially more serious than hepatitis A or B.

In an effort to raise awareness of hepatitis C in Washington state, more than 85 organizations across the state ? including blood banks, hospitals, physicians, labor and religious groups ? have joined forces to form the Washington Hepatitis C Coalition.

Coalition leaders will hold a media briefing at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 8, at UW Medical Center to discuss the significance of hepatitis C, Coalition objectives and the results of a statewide public awareness survey. The briefing follows two significant events the previous week: a report on hepatitis C in Washington prisons to the Legislature from the Department of Corrections and a meeting of the state House Health Care Committee specifically to discuss hepatitis C.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 3.9 million Americans ? or 1.8 percent of the population ? are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Of that number, at least 2.7 million people are chronically infected. Dubbed the “silent epidemic” by medical experts, hepatitis C is one of a family of viruses that can cause liver disease and often lurks undetected in people for up to 40 years with no symptoms. In the United States, 8,000 to 10,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-caused liver disease.