Frater Willie Nelson Urges US Congress to Help Prevent Hepatitis C

Frater Willie Nelson Urges US Congress to Help Prevent Hepatitis C
Frater Willie Nelson

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In an open letter to the United States Congress, Frater Willie Nelson (Nu-Xi, Stephen F. Austin State Univ.) urged them to help in the prevention of Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infectious disease that is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), affecting the liver. The infection is often asymptomatic, but once established, chronic infection can cause inflammation of the liver (chronic hepatitis). This condition can progress to scarring of the liver (fibrosis), and advanced scarring (cirrhosis). In some cases, those with cirrhosis will go on to develop liver failure or other complications of cirrhosis, including liver cancer.

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread by blood-to-blood contact. No vaccine against hepatitis C is available. The symptoms of infection can be medically managed, and a proportion of patients can be cleared of the virus by a course of anti-viral medicines. Although early medical intervention is helpful, people with HCV infection can experience mild symptoms, and consequently do not seek treatment. The open letter from Frater Willie is below.

"If you were given the opportunity to save a life, would you? Well, here is your chance. My friends and I represent the growing number of citizens who are concerned about the global threat posed by the Hepatitis C Virus.

We ask that you bring your attention to the Hepatitis C Epidemic Control and Prevention Act [S 1445/HR 2552]. Hepatitis C is the most common chronic blood-borne viral infection here in the United States, where it is five times more prevalent than AIDS. Conservatively estimated, four to five million Americans are chronically infected with this deadly virus, and well over half of them don't know it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the death rate from HCV-related liver disease will triple by the year 2010. No other disease is expected to increase its burden as rapidly in the coming decade. At least 30,000 new infections occur annually. Yet most Americans and many doctors remain uninformed about this disease, which has been nicknamed "the silent killer" by the medical community. Many won't realize they are sick until they have sustained significant liver damage, while others can live their life with no distinct symptoms, unaware of the potential they have to spread the virus. No vaccine is available to prevent chronic Hepatitis C, but medications are available to cure Hepatitis C in up to 50% of people treated. According to a recent report from the National Institutes of Health, Hepatitis C is a national epidemic without financial resources. Simply put, this has got to change.

If you could be a part of helping bring awareness to this hidden epidemic, would you? YOU CAN. You can co-sponsor the Hepatitis C Epidemic Control and Prevention Act [S 1445/HR 2552], which amends the Public Health Service Act and directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish, promote, and support a comprehensive prevention, research, and treatment program for the Hepatitis C Virus. Whether or not we are infected, this disease affects us all. We are confident that you care about the health of your constituents, and that you will do everything you can to expedite this important Bill. Please don't put this off. There isn't time. Sincerely, Willie Nelson"

Adapted from a News Release. If you would like to see your chapter news here, contact Director of Communication Tom McAninch.

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