Free Hepatitis C screening and walk at Lake Merritt
on March 14, 2014
Just days into his second round of treatment for Hepatitis C, James Jensen spent his afternoon painting banners, making buttons and assembling information packets to educate people about the chronic liver disease which affects an estimated 3.2 million people in the United States.
“The biggest misconception about Hepatitis C is that you have symptoms,” Jensen said. In fact, most people infected with the virus may not feel look or feel ill, but may later progress to liver damage, cirrhosis or liver cancer if left untreated.
Councilwoman Lynette McElhaney led the charge in declaring March 8 to March 15 Hepatitis C Awareness Week in Oakland. Closing the week, Oasis Clinic will offer free testing at Lake Merritt’s Snow Park on Saturday. Volunteers will also participate in an awareness walk.
More than 90 percent of needle-drug users in Oakland have been exposed to Hepatitis C, according to literature distributed by Oasis Clinic, but the disease is not exclusive to one group.
“A huge problem is that the people think it only applies to IV drug users,” said Orlando Chavez, an HIV and Hepatitis C counselor with the Berkeley Free Clinic.
Sharing drug paraphernalia increases risks for exposure, but the disease can be passed through any blood contact. Other sources of risk include having been born to a mother with Hepatitis C, undergoing unsterile tattooing practices or, less commonly, through having unprotected sex with an infected person.
Whether or not a person feels they are at risk, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone born between 1945 and 1965 be tested for the Hepatitis C virus.
Free Hepatitis C Testing by the Oasis Clinic
When: Saturday, March 15, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
(The Awareness Walk starts at 11:30 a.m.)
Where: Snow Park (Harrison St. and Grand Ave.)
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