Tribe holds conference on hepatitis C virus

BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Correspondent
11/09/2015 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Brought in as part of a $1.5 million grant project, Dr. John Ward, director of viral hepatitis for the Centers for Disease Control, provides hepatitis C data to public health professionals on Oct. 30 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in Catoosa, Oklahoma. LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON/SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
CATOOSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Health Services is bringing in some outside assistance to lower – and potentially eliminate – the local hepatitis C rate.

Earlier this year, Health Services received a one-year, $1.5 million grant to fund a study on identifying and treating hepatitis C patients among northeastern Oklahoma’s Native American community.

Part of a partnership with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Oklahoma Department of Health, the study will focus on surveillance and epidemiology.

According to the World Health Organization, hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. The virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis infection, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. The virus is a blood-borne virus and the most common modes of infection are through unsafe injection practices, inadequate sterilization of medical equipment and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.

With positive results popping up across the tribe’s jurisdictional area, part of the funding will also go to increased staffing among the tribe’s health facilities to better address screening and treating the disease.

“The Cherokee Nation’s project is first project of its kind in the country to take on hepatitis C,” Dr. John Ward, the CDC’s director of viral hepatitis, said on Oct. 30 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Ward was the keynote speaker at a conference to discuss the tribe’s study. “It will obviously help people here, but will also help people elsewhere by providing a template to show how it’s done.”

Nationwide, there are an estimated 2.7 million people with the disease, which if left untreated, can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure. Because the disease produces mild symptoms, if any, in the early stages, it is often not detected until liver damage becomes apparent.

With the virus able to survive on surfaces for up to three weeks, exposure to contaminated needles, either through intravenous drug use, medical procedures or piercings, is among the primary risk factors for the disease.

“Hepatitis C isn’t the problem,” Dr. Jorge Mera, director of infectious diseases for CN Health Services, said. “It’s the symptom of a bigger problem: intravenous drug use.”

Other risk factors included extended reliance on dialysis machines for blood filtration, receiving a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, having unprotected sex with multiple partners, being born to a mother with the virus or being HIV-positive.

As part of the grant, Mera and other clinicians will examine what causal role, if any, tattooing, the second most common risk factor nationwide, plays in contracting the disease.

Since January 2014, CN clinics have treated 274 cases of hepatitis C with the lowest rates. About 60 percent of the patients are part of the Baby Boomer generation, those born 1946-65, compared to 75 percent of all hepatitis C patients nationwide.

Mera said his department estimates there are between 4,000 and 5,000 cases across the 14 counties, but have only screened less than a quarter of potential cases so far.

With a goal of testing 85 percent of the adult population, the grant also covers additional screening for CN citizens as young as 20 years old who think they might have the disease.

“We want to encourage people to come in and get tested,” Mera said. “If you belong to the Baby Boomer category, you definitely need to come in and get checked. That doesn’t mean that if you’re 72 and want to get screened that we won’t do it. Just come in, ask, and we will.”

According to a CN press release, with the funding and support of fellow health agencies, nearly 300 patients at the tribe’s W.W. Hastings Hospital identified with hepatitis C have been treated with shots, doctors said for 90 percent it was effective for curing the illness.

“We have close to 1,000 patients who have tested positive for the disease, and we have already treated nearly a quarter of those and are seeing a high success rate. Our hope is to eliminate this disease entirely in the Cherokee Nation,” Mera said.

Others attending were CDC’s director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS Jonathan Mermin, Oklahoma Department of Health Deputy Secretary Julie Cox-Kain, Oklahoma University Health Sciences Infectious Diseases Professor Douglas Drevets and OU Health Sciences Center Dean Gary Raskob.
ᏣᎳᎩ

CATOOSA, ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ. – ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏄᏍᏗᏗᏒᎢ ᏧᏂᏍᏕᎸᎡᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏂᎷᎦ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᏕᎵᏍᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎡᎳᏗ ᎢᏳᏅᏁᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᏛᏅᏙᏗᎢ - ᎾᏍᎩ ᎡᏍᎦᏂ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᏚᏂᏢᎬᎢ.

ᎢᎬᏱᎢᏃ ᎯᎠ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ, ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏄᏍᏗᏗᏒᎢ ᏗᏂᏍᏕᎵᏍᎩ $1.5 ᎢᏳᏆᏗᏅᏓ ᎠᏕᎳ ᎠᏯᏙᏢᎢ ᏚᏂᎩᏒᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏱᎪᎯᏓ ᎤᏅᏙᏗ ᎠᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬᎢ ᎤᏃᏟᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏂᏅᏬᏗᎢ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᏧᏂᏢᎩ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ ᎤᏴᏢᎢᎧᎸᎬᎢ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ ᏅᏁᎯᏯᎢ ᎠᎹᏰᎵ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎠᏁᎲ.

ᎾᏍᎩ ᏚᎾᎵᏕᎸᎭ ᏩᎬᎸᎳᏗᏴᎢ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏄᏍᏗᏗᏒᎢ ᎤᏙᏢᏒᎢ, ᏚᏙᏢᏒᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎤᎾᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎥᏍᎩᏱᎬᏩᎵᏍᏓ ᏂᎨᎲᎾ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ ᎤᏙᏢᏒᎢ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏄᏍᏗᏗᏒᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬᎢ ᏛᏳᏂᎦᏛᏂᏙᎳ ᎠᎴ ᏛᎾᎦᏎᏍᏔᏂ ᎥᎿ ᏗᏓᎴᎲᏍᎬᎢ ᎥᏳᎩ.

ᎡᎶᎯ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏄᏍᏗᏗᏒᎢ ᎤᎾᎦᏎᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᎯ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏃᏟᏨᎢ, ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᏧᏂᏢᎩ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎤᏠᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᏓᏢᎲᏍᎪᎢ.

ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏓᏠᎩ ᏱᏂᎬᏂᏌ ᎢᏧᎳ ᎤᏍᎦᏎᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎪᎯᎩ ᎠᏟᎠᎴᎩ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᏲᏠᎩ, ᎪᎯᏗᎠ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏣᏙᎬᎢ ᎯᎸᏍᎩ ᏳᎾᏙᏓᏆᏍᏗ ᏃᏊ ᎤᏍᎦᏎᏗ ᎠᎴ, ᎥᎬᏅᏃ ᏱᎪᎯᏓ ᏲᏓᏂᎶᎯᏍᏗ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏓᏠᎩ ᎩᎪᎢ-ᎠᏓᏡᏍᎪᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏓᏠᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏭᎪᏛᎢ ᎤᏂᏠᎪᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏓᎾᏓᏣᏲᎯᎲᎢ, ᏧᏓᏅᎦᎸᏗ ᏂᎨᎲᎾ ᏓᎾᏓᏅᏫᏍᎬᎢ ᎤᏅᏔᏂᏓᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎩᎦ ᏓᎾᏓᏁᏁᎲᎢ ᎤᏂᎪᎵᏰᏛ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᎩᎦ ᎠᎴ ᎩᎪᎢ ᎬᏔᏂᏓᏍᏗ.

ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏙᏳᎢ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏂᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᎠᏁᎲᎢ ᏂᎬᎾᏛᎢ. ᎢᎦᏓᏃ ᎠᏕᎳ ᎠᏯᏙᏢᎢ ᏯᏅᏓ ᎠᏂᏁᏉᎬᎢ ᏓᏂᎾᏢᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏂᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏄᏍᏗᏗᏒᎢ ᎤᎾᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗᎢ ᏚᏙᏢᏒᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏓᏤᏝ ᏧᏂᎦᏛᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏂᏅᏬᏗᎢ ᎥᏍᎩᎿᎾᏂ ᎥᏳᎩ.

“ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎠᎯᎸᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩᏍᎩᏂ ᎢᎬᏱᎢ ᎠᎯᎸᏍᏗ ᎥᎿ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᏗᎢ ᎯᎠ ᏥᎩ ᎤᎾᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᎥᏳᎩ,” Dr. John Ward, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ CDC’s ᏄᎬᏫᏳᏌᏕᎩ ᎠᎾᎦᏎᏍᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᎥᏳᎩ, ᎠᏛᏅᏃ ᎾᎯᏳ ᏚᏂᏃᏗ. 30 ᎯᏁ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Ward
ᎠᏍᎦᏰᎬᏍᏗ ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ ᏓᎾᏠᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏬᏏᏐᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ Ꮎ ᎠᏂᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᎠᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬᎢ. “ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏳᏂᏍᏕᎸᎡᏗ ᎤᏂᏣᏘ ᎠᎭᏂ, ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ
ᎾᏍᎩᏊ ᏳᏂᏍᏕᎳ ᎤᏂᏣᏘ ᏂᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏓᏂᏯᏙᎯᎲᎢ ᏗᎪᎵᏰᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏱᎬᏁᎯ ᎢᏯᏛᏁᏗᎢ.”

ᎠᏰᎵᎢ ᏂᎬᎾᏛᎢ, ᎠᏎᏢᎢᏃ ᎢᏯᏂᎢ ᎨᏒ 2.7 ᎢᏳᏆᏗᏅᏓ ᏴᏫ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏁᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎥᏳᎩ, ᎥᏝ ᏗᎧᏅᏩᏅᎢ ᏱᎩ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ, ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᎠᏓᏰᏍᎩ ᎣᏪᎲᎢ ᏱᏩᏟᎠᎶᎦ ᎠᎴᏱᎩ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᏯᎴᏫᏍᏓ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲᎢ. ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎥᏍᎩ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎦᎵᏄᎪᏫᏍᎪᎢ ᎦᏲᏟ ᎬᏕᎶᎰᎯᏍᏙᏗ, ᎢᏳᏃ ᏂᎦᎥᏊ, ᎢᎬᏱᎢᏊ ᎠᏓᎴᏂᏍᎬᎢ, ᎥᏝ ᏯᎾᏕᎶᎰᏍᎪᎢ ᎩᎳᏃ ᏳᏣᏙᏨ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᏚᏂᏢᎬᎢ.

ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏓᏠᎩ ᏯᏕᎲᎦ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ ᎦᏚᎢ ᏗᏜ ᏦᎢ ᏳᎾᏙᏓᏆᏍᎩ ᏱᎪᎯᏓ, ᏗᎦᏓᎭ ᏗᏓᏣᏲᏍᏙᏗ, ᏅᏬᏘ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎬᎢ, ᏓᎾᏓᏅᏫᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴᏱᎩ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏗᎾᏟᎠᏙᏍᎬᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎢᎦᏓ ᎢᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎬᏩᏓᏠᎯᏍᏗ ᎥᏳᎩ.
“ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᎥᏳᎩ ᏱᏂᎬᏂᏏᎭ,” Dr Jorge Mera, ᏄᎬᏫᏳᏎᏕᎩ ᎠᎦᏎᏍᏗᏍᎩ ᏗᏓᏠᎩ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ CN ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏄᏍᏗᏗᏒ ᎠᎾᏓᏍᏕᎵᏍᎩ,
ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎾᏍᎩᏃ Ꮎ ᎠᏕᎶᎰᎯᏍᏙᏗ ᎤᎪᏛᎢ ᏓᏓᎴᎬᎢ: ᏓᎾᏓᏣᏲᎯᎲᎢ ᎤᏍᎦᏎᏗ ᏅᏬᏘ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎬᎢ.”
ᏂᏚᏓᎴᏃ ᏗᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗ dialysis ᎩᎦ ᎾᏂᏅᎦᎵᏍᎬᎢ , ᎩᎦ ᏓᎾᏓᏁᏁᎲᎢ ᎠᎴᏱᎩ ᎥᏰᎸ ᎭᏫᏂ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅᎢ ᏓᏂᏁᎲᎢ ᏧᎾᏓᏂᎳ 1992 ᎤᏟᏗᏗᏢ, ᎠᎴ ᎯᎸᏍᎩ ᏗᎬᏩᎯᏰᎯ, ᎤᎾᏓᏥ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎤᏁᎯ ᏓᎾᎷᎸᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴᏱᎩ HIV ᎤᏁᎯ.

ᎢᎦᏛᏃ ᎠᏕᎳ ᎤᏂᏯᏙᏢᎢ, Mera ᎠᎴ ᏗᏐᎢ ᏧᏂᏢᎩ ᎤᏁᏓᏍᏗ ᏚᏙᏢᏒᎢ ᏯᏂᏍᏓᏩᏚᎦ ᎾᏍᎩ, ᎢᏳᏃ, ᎠᏂᏰᎸᎢ ᏱᏓᎾᏓᏟᎶᏍᏗᎠ, ᏔᎵᏁᎢ ᏗᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏂᎬᎾᏛᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᏂᎦᎵᏍᏓ ᏲᏠᎩ ᎥᏳᎩ.

2014 ᎤᏃᎸᏔᏂ ᎧᎸᎢ ᏂᏛᏓᎴᏂᏍᎩ, CN ᎠᏂᎦᎾᎬᏘᎢ ᏚᏂᏍᏕᎸᎯ 274 ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎤᏁᎯ ᏩᎦᏲᏢᎢ. 60
Percent ᏱᎦᏛᎢ ᏱᎦᎢ ᏧᏂᏢᎩ Baby Boomer ᎤᎾᏟᏔᏅᏒᎢ, ᎾᏃ 1945-64 ᎤᎾᏅᎢ, ᎾᎥᏂᎨᏍᏗ 75 percent ᏱᎦᏛᎢ ᎢᎦᏓ ᎤᏁᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏂᎬᎾᏛ.

Mera Ꮓ ᎢᎧᏃᎵᏍᎬᎢ ᎥᎿ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎾᏎᏢᎾᏭ 400 ᎠᎴ 500 ᎾᏂᎠ ᏗᎬᏩᎶᏒᎢ 14 ᏗᏍᎦᏚ ᏚᏙᏢᏩᏗᏒᎢ, ᎠᏎᏅ ᎩᏄᎬᏘᏊ Ꮲ ᏱᎦᎢ ᏦᏥᎦᏛᎾᏁᎸᎢ .

ᎾᏍᎩ ᏙᎫᏛᎢ ᏦᏥᎦᏛᎾᏁᏗᎢ 85 Percent ᏧᎾᏔᏅ ᎠᏁᎲᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏕᎳ ᎠᏯᏙᏢᎢ ᎾᏃ ᎠᏠᏯᏍᏓ ᎨᏥᎬᏓᎾᏁᏗᎢ CN ᎠᏁᎳ 20 ᎢᏧᎾᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎤᏁᎲᎢ ᏯᏁᎵᎠ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎥᏳᎩ.

“ᎣᎦᏚᎵᎠᏃ ᏴᏫ ᎤᏂᎷᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎨᏥᎬᏓᎾᏁᏗᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Mera. “ᎢᏳᏃ Baby Boomer ᏱᎩ, ᎢᏙᏳᎢ ᎡᏣᎬᏛᎾᏓᏁᏗ ᏄᏍᏗ. ᎢᏳᏃ 72 ᎢᏣᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏱᎩ ᎥᏝ ᎬᏰᏣᏓᏱᏏ ᎡᏣᎬᏛᎾᏁᏗᎢ. ᏣᎷᎯᏍᏗᏊ, ᏣᏛᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᏱᏃᏣᏛᎦ.”

ᎾᏍᎩᏃ CN ᏚᏂᏃᏣᎳᏅᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏕᎳ ᏚᏂᎩᏒᎢ ᎬᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏕᎦᎫᏍᏓᎥᎢ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᏚᏙᏢᏒᎢ, 300 ᎾᏂᎨᏍᏗ
ᏧᎾᏓᏂᎵ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ ᎠᏂᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᎤᏃᏢᏒᎢ W.W.Hastings Hospital ᎨᎪᎵᏨᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏪᎶᎢ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎤᏁᎲᎢ ᏕᏰᏥᎡᏲᎯᎲᎢ ᏕᎨᏥᏅᏫᎠ, ᎠᎾᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏂᎦᎾᎦᏘ 90 percent ᏱᎦᎢ ᏚᏙᏟᏨᎢ ᏕᎨᏥᏅᏫᏍᎬᎢ ᏚᏂᏢᎬᎢ.

“ ᎾᎠᏂᎨᏍᏗ 1,000 ᏧᎾᏓᏂᎳ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎨᏥᏩᏛᎡᎸᎢ ᎤᏁᎲᎢ ᎥᏳᎩ, ᎠᎴ ᎦᏳᎳ ᏙᏥᏍᏕᎸᎯ ᎾᎥᏂᎨᏍᏗ ᎩᏄᎩᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏳᎾᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎾᏕᎶᎰᏍᎦ ᏕᎨᏥᏍᏕᎵᎲᎢ. ᎤᏚᎩᏃ ᎣᎬᏐᎢ ᎣᎩᏛᏛᏃᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎯᎠ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎠᎭᏂ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Mera.

ᎠᏂᏐᎢᏃ ᎠᏁᏙᎲᎢ CDC’s ᏄᎬᏫᏳᏒᎢ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎤᏙᏢᏒᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ HIV/AIDS Jonathan Mermin, ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ
ᎤᏙᏢᏒᎢ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏄᏍᏗᏗᏒᎢ ᏔᎵᏁ ᎠᏓᎴᏁᎯ ᏗᎪᏪᎵᏍᎩ Julie Cox-Kain, ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ ᏩᎦᎸᎳᏗᏴᎢ ᏗᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏄᏍᏗᏗᏒᎢ Sciences ᎠᏓᏠᎩ ᎥᏳᎩ Professor Douglas Drevets ᎠᎴ OU Health Sciences Center Dean Gary Raskob,

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