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Cherokee Nation lauded for hepatitis C elimination effort

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – One of the largest Native American tribes is being praised as a model for its aggressive program to test for and treat hepatitis C.

The Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation has screened more than half its target of 80,000 citizens for the potentially fatal liver disease. The tribe says it has a 90 percent cure rate.

The Cherokees operate the largest tribal health care system in the U.S. The system pays patients’ costs.

Federal health officials say the initiative could serve as a national model for communities on how to find financial backing for similar plans and setting a goal for eliminating the disease that can take decades to show symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in 2016 that hepatitis C killed more people than HIV and tuberculosis combined.