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What hepatitis-C patients may be facing thanks to Kristen Parker

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Kristen Parker, the surgical tech who may have led to the hepatitis-C infection of hospital patients numbering in the thousands, continues to make headlines, and not just because her MySpace Page is filled with flashy photos and assorted confessions about, for instance, her love of needles. At this point, plenty of people who unknowingly entered her orbit are terrified at the prospect that they, too, may have contracted hep-C -- and their fears are founded in some mighty ugly medical facts.

According to the Mayo Clinic, "A small number of people infected with hepatitis-C fight off the virus on their own without any permanent damage." For the rest, however, "the disease settles in and slowly attacks the liver," with results that can lead to a lifetime of painful treatment and, in a sizable percentages of instances, liver transplant.

Not that such treatment constitutes a magic bullet. As the Mayo clinicians point out: "Liver transplantation does not cure HCV. The majority of people with hepatitis C who receive liver transplants experience a recurrence of the virus. Those with HCV who receive liver transplants also are at accelerated risk of developing cirrhosis within five years. Treatment with HCV-fighting medications may help prevent a recurrence of infection or treat recurrent illness that develops after a liver transplant. However, the effectiveness of this type of treatment after a liver transplant is unclear."

No telling how much harm Ms. Parker has allegedly done at this point. But it's likely to be vast -- and to linger for years.

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