February 4, 2004

Beaver County Times & Allegheny Times - A Florida company will offer free liver testing Saturday and Sunday for those stricken in the recent hepatitis A outbreak. The tests, according to Sixto Pacheco, president and chief executive officer of BioCollections Worldwide Inc. in Miami, will serve two purposes. The first, Pacheco said, is to see whether those who came down with hepatitis A are still in the acute phase, or they've moved into the recovery phase. The second purpose, Pacheco said, is to allow researchers to possibly develop better testing methods for hepatitis A. "Hepatitis A that was around 30 years ago is not the same as today," Pacheco said, adding that every disease evolves over time. Pacheco said a group of pharmaceutical companies is sponsoring the testing. The outbreak gives the company the chance to collect as much data as possible, he said. According to the state health department, 660 people were sickened in the outbreak, which was traced to raw green onions served at the Chi-Chi's Mexican restaurant at the Beaver Valley Mall. Three people died in the outbreak, and 130 were hospitalized. The tests will be conducted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Center Medical Associates, 99 Autumn Lane, Center Township. Those interested in the testing must make an appointment by calling (800) 489-5454.

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