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A disease that's becoming more prevalent in our society is the focus of a study underway in our province, and volunteers are needed from Winkler and the surrounding area.

Last summer, the C.W. Wiebe Medical Centre announced it was asked to take part in a University of Manitoba study looking for cases of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The university is conducting the study in two places, the Winkler region, and an area of First Nations Reserves in Northern Manitoba. At least 1,000 volunteers are needed from both regions.

Dr. Cornelius Woelk, who is helping to organize the local study, says NAFLD is one of the most "up and coming" diseases. Woelk notes cirrhosis related to fatty liver is on the rise and is going to surpass, if it hasn't already, cirrhosis caused by other causes like alcoholism and hepatitis. "So it's a disease that can happen to a lot of us, and we really don't know very much about it."

"We're seeing more and more of it," says Woelk. "The liver is used to filter, and when you don't have a good filter you lose other functions. We're trying to screen people ahead of time to try to prevent it, get a sense of how common it is, and try to get a sense of what we might do to impact it."

A clinic to screen people for the disease will take place this Thursday, January 24th, at the C.W. Wiebe Medical Centre, starting at 8:30 am. Woelk says you can either call the clinic ahead of time to make an appointment or just walk in.

What will your appointment look like? Woelk says volunteers will sign-in, answer a few questions, have their height and weight measured, and have an ultrasound. If everything looks good, you will be asked to come back in five years for another check, looking to see if anything has changed.

If something abnormal is picked up, you will be taken to another scanner for a second look, and if there are signs of fatty liver, you will be set up with ongoing follow-ups with a liver specialist. "They will try to circumvent these problems, and reduce the chances of developing more problems from the fatty liver."

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