By Pete Soyer
The Hill County Health Department is using a grant it received to sponsor an upcoming conference here on hepatitis C.
Sue Swan, AIDS counselor of the Hill County Health Department, and Cindy Smith, director of nurses at the Hill County Health Department, wrote the grant application in the spring of 2000.
The $10,000 grant is from the National Association of City County Health Organizations and is to be used for educational purposes. The Hill County Health Department was one of five health departments nationwide that received a grant.
Swan said the health department wants to educate area physicians and residents in Havre about hepatitis C.
"Instead of sending (doctors) to conferences, we decided we'd bring conferences to them," Swan said.
People can have hepatitis C for about 20 years without seeing any progression in the disease. After that, those infected usually develop cirrhosis of the liver.
The conference is Sept. 6. The first two sessions are open only to doctors and will be held at Northern Montana Hospital. The evening session, at 7 p.m., is open to everyone and will be held at Montana State University-Northern.
The first session, Diagnosis of Hepatitis C, is at noon and will be given by Dr. Greg Everson, professor of medicine and director of hepatology at the University of Colorado.
Everson is the co-author of "Living with Hepatitis C: A Survivor's Guide."
Everson won the National Institutes of Health Clinical Investigator Award and the American College Physicians Teaching and Research Scholarship. He counsels hundreds of hepatitis C patients and directs the university's liver transplantation program.
The second session is at 1 p.m. and has three parts. The first is consider current and future treatments. The second is look at hepatitis in Montana, and the third will feature a panel of hepatitis C-positive individuals from the community. The panel members will answer questions and talk about their experiences with treatment and living with the disease.
Kay Nessland and Swan started a hepatitis C support group in April for people in the community who are infected. Some of those in the support group are participating in the panel, Swan said. The evening session will be given by Everson.
For more information about the conference, call the Hill County Health Department at 265-5481.