Hepatitis C program encourages testing for at-risk people

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
02/04/2015 10:37 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A new program to screen for and treat Hepatitis C within the Cherokee Nation is gaining momentum as it moves to the tribe’s seven health centers from its W.W. Hastings Hospital base.

Dr. Jorge Mera, who is leading the program at Hastings, said he saw the program’s need when he saw the number of patients who had the virus. The virus can cause liver disease or inflammation of the liver, which is the organ that removes harmful chemicals from the blood, fights infection, helps digest food and stores nutrients and energy.

“When I came here in 2012, one of the reasons that I was hired was to take care of the Hepatitis C clinic. I did find that we had a lot of patients, but unfortunately at that time the possibility of treating the patients was not very good because we did not have very good medications,” Mera said. “The medications that we had were effective, but most people couldn’t take them because of the side effects. Even though I knew we had thousands of patients with Hep C, the amount we could treat was less than 10 percent.”

New medications have come on the market, he said, that are safer with less side effects that allow more patients to be treated. Now, he said, he can treat 90 patients out of 100.

Mera said because the number of Hepatitis C patients is in the thousands, he and his nurse assistant reached out to some of the Nation’s seven health clinics to form partnerships to treat that population. The first partnerships were formed with the Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee and the A-Mo Health Center in Salina, and Mera has since met with a health provider and nurses in each health center.

Soon, Hepatitis C clinics also will be available at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell, the Will Rogers Health Center in Nowata, Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw, Sam Hider Health Center in Jay, and the Bartlesville Health Clinic, which will soon transfer to the health facility being built in Ochelata.
Also, Dr. Anna Miller, Amanda Hicks and more staff have been added at Hastings to assist with the program.

Mera said the virus does not always show symptoms, so it is important for people to get screened. A blood test will show if a patient has Hepatitis C.

“So, who needs to be screened? The latest CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendation is for the ‘Baby Boomer’ population, so anybody born between 1945 and 1965 should be screened,” he said. “Anybody who has used intravenous drugs or snorted drugs, even if it was once in their lifetime, should get tested.”

Also, people who received a blood transfusion before 1992, had an organ transplant, have a history of getting non-professional tattoos and men who have had sex with men should get tested.

So far, 300 to 400 patients have been evaluated through the program to determine their “urgent or non-urgent need” for treatment, and about 100 of those patients are receiving treatment to cure the virus. However, Mera said, it’s estimated there are 5,000 Hepatitis C patients within the CN, and the program has detected 900 patients.

“These are just rough numbers, but they’re not far off from the reality. Our goal is to detect the 5,000 and treat the 5,000. It takes a lot of effort and organization,” he said.

The Hepatitis C epidemic peaked in the 1960s and1970s when intravenous drug use was common, Mera said.

“It was not perceived as harmful in those times. This is a chronic infection, so it doesn’t give you problems until 20 or 30 years after you’ve had the infection. Now we’re starting to see those patients with those problems,” he said. “Most of the patients are leading productive lives, but it’s important to detect who needs treatment, so they can continue to have a productive life.”

He said less than 20 percent of patients infected show symptoms. Those people have an acute infection and may feel tired, their skin may turn yellow, may have dark-yellow urine, stomach pain and loss of appetite. Mera said most people who are infected don’t know it, but may experience flu-like symptoms periodically.

“Not everybody will get sick (who are infected), that’s important to say, but about 30 percent of the people infected will develop severe scarring of the liver in 20 to 30 years, which we call cirrhosis,” he said.

Other disorders that may occur are skin disorders, kidney disease and arthritis. However, the liver is most affected.

Mera recommended people wanting to get tested have their primary physicians refer them to him or one of the physicians working with the Hepatitis C program in one of the CN health centers.

If a person knows he or she has Hepatitis C, call Dr. Mera’s office at 918-458-3381 to make an appointment.

“If you don’t know your (Hepatitis C) status, ask your doctor to test you,” Mera said.

For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/.
ᏣᎳᎩ

ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ. – ᎢᏤᏃ ᎤᏙᏢᎭ ᎨᏥᎩᏛᎾᏁᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏅᏬᏘ ᎨᏥᏁᏗᎢ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᏧᏂᏢᎩ Hepatitis C ᎥᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎧᏁᏉᎩ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏂᏱᎵᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᎦᎵᏉᎩ ᏚᏃᏢᏒᎢ ᎨᏥᎬᏛᎾᏁᏗᎢ ᏚᏙᏢᏩᏗᏒᎢ ᎤᏣᏘᎾ ᏏᏅ W.W. Hastings Hosptial ᏥᏧᏙᏢᎭ.

Dr. Jorge Mera, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏓᏘᏁᎭ ᎥᎿ ᏥᏧᏙᏢᎭ Hastings, ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎪᎲᎢ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎧᏂᎬᎬᎢ ᎤᏕᎳᎰᏏ ᏱᎦᎢ ᏴᏫ ᎤᏁᎲᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎥᏳᎩ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎥᏳᎩ ᏲᏠᎩ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏱᎩ ᏱᎪᏘᎯ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏥᎩ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᎩᎬᎢ ᎦᏅᎦᎵᏍᎩ, ᎥᏳᎩ ᎠᏓᏠᎩ ᎠᎭᎷᎩᏍᎩ, ᎠᎴ ᎠᎵᏍᏓᏰᏗ ᎣᏬᏝᏅ ᎡᎳᏗ ᏂᎬᏁᎯ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏍᏆᏂᎪᏗᎰ ᎥᏰᎸ ᎤᎵᏍᏕᎸᏙᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎬᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᎢ.

ᎾᎯᏳᏃ ᏣᎩᏅᏨᎢ 2012 ᏌᏉᏃ ᏳᏰᏟᏗ ᏥᎬᎩᎾᏢᏅᎢ ᎬᏥᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗ Hepatitis C ᏧᏂᏢᎩ. ᎠᏩᏕᎳᎰᏏ ᎤᎾᏍᏈᏍᏙᏒᎢ ᎨᎲᎢ ᏧᏂᏢᎩ ᎥᏍᎩ ᏳᏍᏗ ᎤᏁᎯ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎤᏲᎢᏭ ᎨᏒ, ᎾᎯᏳᏃ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᏙᎯᏳᎯᏯ ᏗᎬᏍᏕᎸᏗ ᎨᏒ ᏧᏂᏢᎩ ᎥᏝ ᏍᎩᏲᏍᏗ ᏱᎨᏎᎢ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎥᏝ ᎥᏍᎩᏲᏍᏗ ᏅᏬᏘ ᏱᎩᎮᎢ,”ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Mera.
“ᎾᏍᎩᏍᏂ ᏅᏬᏘ ᏥᎩᎮᎢ ᎣᏏᏊ ᎨᏒᎩ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎥᏝ ᏱᎬᏅᏓ ᎨᏒ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎤᏣᏘᎾ ᏗᏜ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎠᏓᏛᏁᎲᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏅᏬᏘ. ᎤᏁᎳᎩ ᎬᏆᏂᏔ ᎠᎬᏴᎵ ᎤᎶᎲᏍᏗ ᎾᏂᎥ ᏧᎾᏓᏂᎳ Hep C ᎤᏁᎯ ᎠᏁᎲ, ᎢᎦᏓᏊ ᏗᎦᏳᏂᏍᏕᎸᏗᏊ ᎨᏒᎩ,”

ᎢᏤᏃ ᏅᏬᏘ ᎾᏊ ᎨᏒ ᎠᏂᏯᏙᎯᎭ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ, ᎥᏝ ᎥᏍᎩ ᏱᎦᎢᏱᎦᏲᏮᏁᎸᎲᎦ ᎤᏣᏘᎾ ᏗᏜ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏓᏤᏝ ᎤᏂᎪᏓᏃ ᏴᏫ ᏓᏂᏍᏕᎵᎠ. ᎿᏊᏃ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ, ᏭᏂᎪᏛᏃ ᎾᏊ ᎨᏥᏍᏕᎵᎠ.

MeraᏃ ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎬᏴᎵᏃ ᎤᎶᏒᏍᏗ ᎨᎲ ᏧᏂᏢᎩ ᎤᏁᎲᎢ Hep C ᎤᏁᎯ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏍᏕᎸᎯᏙᎢ ᎤᎾᏙᏯᏅᎯᏛᎢ ᏗᏐᎢ ᎠᏰᎵᎢ ᏙᏧᏙᏢᏒᎢ ᏧᏂᏍᏕᏟᏗᎢ ᎤᏂᏣᏘ. ᎢᎬᏱᎢᏃ ᏚᎾᎵᎪᏅᎢ ᎤᏙᎷᏩᏛᏗ ᏦᎢ ᎡᏉᏂ ᏂᏚᏪᏴᏴᎢ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏥᏧᏙᏢᎭ ᎫᏐᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎠᎼᎢ ᏥᏧᏙᏢᎭ, Mera ᎠᎴ ᏧᏂᏢᎩ ᏗᏂᏍᏕᎵᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᎦᎾᎦᏘ ᏗᏂᏍᏕᎵᏍᎩ ᎥᎿ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏚᏙᏢᏩᏗᏒᎢ ᏧᏂᏢᎩᎢ.

ᎾᏞᎬᏭ ᏥᎨᏎᏍᏗ, Hepatitis C ᏧᏂᏢᎩᎢ ᎤᏙᏢᏎᏍᏗ ᎥᎿ Wilma P. Mankiller ᏧᏂᏢᎩᎢ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎥᎿ ᏍᏗᎵᏪᎵ, ᎾᏍᎩᏊᏍᎩᏂ Will Rogers ᏧᏂᏢᎩᎢ ᎠᏰᎵᎢ ᎥᎿ Nowta, Redbird Smith ᏧᏂᏢᎩᎢ ᎠᏰᎵᎢ ᏌᎷᏂᎨᏴᎢ, Sam Hider ᏧᏂᏢᎩᎢ ᎠᏰᎵᎢ ᏜᏱᎪᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᏊ Bartlesvillie ᏧᏂᏢᎩᎢ ᎠᏰᎵ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏥᎩ ᎾᏞᎬᏭ ᏥᎨᏎᏍᏗ ᏛᏓᏅᏏ ᎥᎿ ᎤᏣᎴᏛᎢ ᎢᏤᎢ ᏗᎾᏁᏍᎨᎲᎢ ᏫᏛᏂᎷᏥ. ᎠᎴᏍᏊ, Dr Anna Miller, Amanda Hicks ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᎪᏗ ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎢ ᎨᎦᏠᏯᏍᏓ ᎥᎿ Hastings ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᎵᏍᏕᎸᏗᎢ ᎥᎿ ᏧᏙᏢᏒᎢ.

Mera ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏥᎩ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎥᏝ ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᏱᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᎰ ᎣᏓᏂᎸᎢ ᎥᏝ ᏱᎬᏲᏂᏔ ᎣᏪᎯᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏥᎩ ᎤᎵᏍᎨᏗᏳ ᏱᎨᏥᎦᏛᎾᏁᎵ.

ᎩᎪᎢ ᏳᏂᎦᏛᎲᎦ ᎥᎿᏃ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᏱᏂᎦᎵᏍᏓ Hepatitis C ᎣᏪᎯ ᏱᎩ.

“Ꭷ, ᎦᎪᎢ ᎨᏥᎬᏛᎾᏁᏗ? ᎾᏍᎩZ ᏬᏂᏴᎢ CDC(Centers for Disease Control) ᏥᎨᏥᏁᎢᏍᏗᎭ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ “Baby Boomer’s ᎤᏂᏣᏘ, 1945 ᎬᏓᎴᏂᏍᎩ 1995 ᏩᏍᏘ ᎡᎵᏍᏗ ᏱᎨᏥᎬᏓᎾᏏ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. ᏂᎦᎥᏊᏃ ᎩᎶ ᏗᏓᏣᏲᏍᏙᏗ ᎤᏍᎦᏎᏗ ᏅᏬᏘ ᎬᏗᏍᎩ ᏱᎨᏎ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎵᏒᏍᏗᏍᎩ ᎤᏍᎦᏎᏗ ᏅᏬᏘ, ᎠᎴᎾᏍᏊ ᏌᏊᏭ ᎢᏳᏩᎬᏘ ᎢᏳᏛᏁᎸᎢ ᏱᎩ, ᎡᎵᏍᏗ ᏯᏥᎬᏛᎾᏏ.”

ᎠᎴᎾᏍᏊ, ᏏᏃ 1992 ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎬᎾ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎩᎦ ᎨᏥᏁᏁᎸᎢ ᏱᎩ, ᎠᎴ ᎭᏫᏂ ᎥᏰᎸ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᏄᏓᎴᎢ ᎠᏥᏁᎸᎢ ᏱᎩ, ᎠᎴ ᏣᎪᏪᎳᏁᎸᎢ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏱᎩ. 300 400 ᏩᏍᏘ ᎨᏥᎬᏓᎾᏁᎸᎢ ᎥᎿ ᎤᏙᏢᏒᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᎬᏩᏄᎪᏙᏗ “ᏳᏚᏟᏗ ᏱᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏚᏟᏗ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᏱᎩ” ᎤᎾᎴᏅᏗ ᎨᏥᏍᏕᎵᎲᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ Ꮲ ᎾᏂᎠ ᏧᎾᏓᏂᎳ ᎨᏥᏍᏕᎵᎠ ᏗᎨᏥᏅᏬᏗᎢ ᎠᏂᏅᏫᏍᎬᎢ ᎥᏳᎩ. ᎾᏍᎩᏍᎩᏂ, Mera ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ, 5,000 ᎢᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᎾᏂᎠ Hepatitis C ᎤᏁᎯ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏙᏢᏒᎢ 900 ᎢᏯᏂᎢ ᏧᏂᏢᎩ ᎨᏥᏩᏛᎡᎸᎢ.

“ᎯᎠᏃ ᎥᏝᏙ ᏚᏳᎪᏛᎢ ᏗᏎᏢᎢ ᏱᎩ ᏂᎬᏁᎵᎰᎢ, ᎠᏎᏍᎩ ᎾᏂᎨᏍᏗ ᏗᏎᏢᎢ. ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᏙᎫᏛᎢ ᏦᏥᏩᏛᏗᎢ Ꮎ 5,000 ᎢᏳᏂᏨᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏦᏥᏍᏕᎸᏗᎢ ᏂᎦᏓ. ᎤᏓᏍᏈᏍᏙᏒᎢ ᏗᎦᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎫᏔᏂᏓᏍᏗᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.

ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎾᎯᏳᎢ 1960s ᎠᎴ 1970s ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎤᏟᏍᏗ ᎤᎯᎵᏙᎸᎢ Hepatitis C ᎾᎯᏳ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᏓᎾᏓᏣᏲᎯᎲᎢ ᎤᏍᎦᏎᏗ ᏅᏬᏘ ᎾᏅᏗᎲᎢ ᎩᎳ ᎤᎵᏄᎪᏨᎢ ᎨᏒᎢ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.

“ᎥᏝᏃ ᎡᏍᎦ ᏯᏓᏛᏁᎯ ᏱᎨᎮ ᎠᏁᎵᏍᎨᎢ ᎾᎯᏳ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ. ᎪᎯᏓᏃ ᎠᏓᏠᎩ, ᏍᎩᏃ ᏥᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᎭ ᎥᏝ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏯᏓᏛᏁᎰᎢ ᎩᎳ 20 ᎠᎴ 30 ᎢᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏳᎶᏐᎾ ᎬᏳᏓᏠᏨᎢ. ᎾᏊᏃ ᏙᏥᎪᏩᏘ ᏧᎾᏓᏂᎳ ᏚᎾᏓᎴᏤᎲᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᎢᎦᏓ ᎤᏂᏠᏨᎢ ᏙᎯᏊ ᏄᎾᏛᎿᏕᎦ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎤᎵᏍᎨᏗᏯ ᎠᏕᎳᎰᎯᏍᏗ ᎦᎪ ᎤᏚᏟᏗ ᏄᏛᎿᏕᎬᎢ ᎠᎦᏍᏕᎸᏗᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏂᎬᏂᎯᎵᏐᏊ ᏙᎯ ᏄᎾᏛᎿᏕᎬᎢ,” ᎯᎠᏃ ᏄᎦᏪᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏂᎦᏲᏟᏊ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᎤᏁᎲᎢ.
ᎤᏂᏣᏙᏨᎢ ᎤᏁᎯ ᎨᏐᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎾᏍᏘᏰᏍᎩ ᎨᎰᎢ, ᎤᏂᏁᎦᎸᏃ ᏓᎶᏂᎨ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎪᎢ,ᏙᏱ ᎤᏁᏙᎸᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏊ ᎤᎵᏍᎩ ᏓᎶᏂᎨᎢ ᎨᎰᎢ, ᏧᏂᏍᏉᏟᏃ ᏕᎯᏍᏙᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎥᏝ ᏱᏚᏂᏲᏏᏍᎪᎢ. MeraᏃ ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎢᎦᏓ ᏴᏫ ᎥᏝ ᏳᎾᏂᏙᎢ ᎤᏁᎲᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᏳᏓᎵᎭ ᎤᏴᏜ ᎤᏂᏂᏴᎢᏓ ᏂᎬᏫᏍᏙᎢ.

“ᎥᏝ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏱᏚᎾᏓᏂᎶᎯᏍᏗᏍᎪᎢ (ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏁᎯ), ᎤᎵᏍᎨᏗᏃ ᏱᎬᎦᏪᏍᏗ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎢᎦᏓ ᎤᏁᎯ 20 ᎠᎴ 30 ᏫᎾᏕᏘᏱᏍᎬᎢ ᎤᏁᎸᎢ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ Cirrhosis,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.

ᏐᎢᏃ ᏗᏓᏓᎴᏤᏗᎢ ᎣᏁᎦᎸᎢ ᏱᏙᏓᎴᏥᏏ, ᏧᏓᎵ, ᎠᎴ ᏗᏛᎴᏍᎩ. ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏭᎪᏛᎢ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᏚᎾᏓᎴᏤᎰᎢ.

Mera ᎢᏳᏪᏓ ᎢᎦᏓ ᎤᎾᏚᎵᎲᎢ ᎨᏥᎬᏛᎾᏁᏗᎢ ᎤᏅᏌ ᎦᎾᎦᏘ ᎤᏂᎧᎲᎢ ᏙᏗᎦᎧᎲᏍᎪᎢ ᎬᎩᏩᏛᏗᎢ ᎠᎴᏱᎩ ᏌᏊ ᎠᎦᎾᎦᏘ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ ᎥᎿ ᏧᏙᏢᏒᎢ Hepatitis C ᎤᏁᎯ ᎤᏁᏓᏍᏗᎢ ᎥᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏧᏂᏢᎩᎢ. ᎢᏳᏃ ᎩᎶᎢ ᎤᏅᏔ Hepatitis C ᎤᏪᎯ ᏱᎩ, ᎯᎠ ᏗᏟᏃᎮᏗᎢ ᏗᏎᏍᏗ 918-458-3381 ᏩᏟᏃᎮᏗ ᏫᎧᏃᎯᏎᏗ Dr Mera ᎣᏚᎵᎲᎢ ᎤᏓᎪᏩᏛᏗᎢ.

ᎢᏳᏃ ᏂᏣᏂᏛᎾ ᏱᎩ ᎣᏪᎲᎢ (Hepatitis C), ᎠᏛᏗᏃ ᎦᎾᎦᏘ ᏣᎧᎲᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Mera.

ᎢᏳᏃ ᎤᎪᏗ ᎠᏕᎳᎰᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᏲᏚᎵᎠ ᎠᎭᏂᏃ ᏯᎦᏛᏂᏙᎳ.

About the Author
Will Chavez is a Cherokee/San Felipe Pueblo Indian who has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 25 years. During that time he has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers. 

For many years h ...
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will Chavez is a Cherokee/San Felipe Pueblo Indian who has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 25 years. During that time he has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers. For many years h ...

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