Healthbeat: Racecar driver, liver health advocate’s “Race to End Hep C”

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Liver disease is something that sickens tens of millions of Americans. There are many forms of the disease but one in particular often comes with no symptoms.

We’re talking about Hepatitis C and while many diseases have a celebrity helping raise awareness and finding a cure, liver disease hasn’t really had that until now.

26-year-old Will Rodgers is a driving force in more than just the world of NASCAR and stock car racing. As a survivor of the rare autoimmune liver disease primary sclerosing cholangitis, he is trying to speed up liver disease awareness. He formed the non-profit, Will Rodgers Liver Health Foundation.

“There are over 100 liver diseases known. And you know a lot of them kind of go uneducated or a lot of people are unaware of those liver diseases specifically but hepatitis C, you know, what we’re representing this year through our campaign, Race To End Hep C, is among the top of those diseases,” stated Rodgers.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver.

Rodgers’ latest initiative offers free, anonymous, trackside blood testing for hepatitis C at select NASCAR events, with results available in just minutes.

Some pockets of the country have a higher prevalence of hep C like the Appalachian region in the heart of NASCAR country. The reason? Opioid abuse.

“One of the main ways of transmission is blood transmission. That’s why intravenous drug use, other high-risk behaviors can be associated with the risk of transmission,” said Alberto Unzueta, MD of liver disease & transplant specialist at Geisinger.

Those high-risk behaviors create a different kind of epidemic a lack of testing and treatment.

“Really, it comes down to a lot of negative stigmas that surround hepatitis, right. People don’t want to talk about it. Whether that’s with their friends and family, or even their doctor,” said Rogers.

While Rodgers’ ultimate goal is to conquer all forms of liver disease, for now, his sight is squarely on hep C for which there is no vaccine.

“Untreated hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer and ultimately liver failure,” stated Rodgers.

Something many people may not realize is that hepatitis C is usually curable through a daily oral medication taken for two to six months.

If you wish to learn more about Will Rodgers Liver Health Foundation, you can do so by heading to his website.

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