MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A Muskegon clinic helping cure the most common blood-borne infection in the world is marking a big milestone.
The Mercy Health Hepatitis C Clinic is celebrating 500 patients cured. It has cured 37 percent of all patients referred, four times higher than the national rate.
Hepatitis C spreads by blood-to-blood exposure. It can cause liver damage, cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
“There is a cure and I’m living proof,” Tammy Rogers told 24 Hour News 8.
She was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2005. She knew some of her friends were infected but she wasn’t showing any symptoms.
That’s not surprising, said Dr. Elaine Leigh, a nurse practitioner at Mercy Health Hackley Campus. She said hepatitis C has long been known as a silent epidemic.
“People can have this infection for 20, 30 years or more and have no symptoms whatsoever,” Leigh said.
Rogers was referred to the Mercy Health Hepatitis C Clinic by her doctor. After learning she qualified for treatment, she went on a 12-week regimen of a drug called Harvoni.
“Three months after getting done in December, I had the final blood work done in March and got the wonderful call that I’m cured,” Rogers said.
The medications of the past left patients with painful side effects, like nagging nausea and lethargy. Rogers said she didn’t have any.
“My biggest fear was (infecting) my grandchildren. I don’t have that worry anymore,” she said. “The weight off the shoulders, knowing up here (in my mind) that it’s gone. I don’t have that burden anymore.”
People are coming from counties away for treatment at the Mercy Health Hepatitis C Clinic. It has set a goal for a 50 percent cure rate.
“At this point, if they come for evaluation and are eligible for treatment, we’re going to find a cure for you,” Leigh said. “Nationally, eradication is not being talked about because it’s such a big issue. But I believe here in West Michigan, we really have a chance of eradicating it.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend all people born between 1945 and 1965 get screened for hepatitis C with a simple blood test.