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Resolution to Name May 2012 as Celiac Disease Awareness Month Passes House Unanimously

(Juneau) – A resolution to proclaim May 2012 as Celiac Disease Awareness Month, SCR 16, was approved unanimously by the Alaska House of Representatives today.

Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, an advanced nurse practitioner, sponsored SCR 16 to bring greater public awareness to a disease that is much more common than many realize, and often goes undiagnosed. May will also be National Celiac Disease Awareness Month.

“I appreciate that the House has unanimously passed SCR 16,” Sen. Giessel said. “Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder which results in a variety of digestive symptoms. It is frequently misdiagnosed, based on its symptoms, and can lead to malnutrition and other health problems in a person who is suffering from it.”

Gluten, a protein found on grains like wheat, barley and rye, is present in baked products but is also used in hundreds of processed food products and sometimes in common things like cosmetics.  There is no cure for Celiac disease; symptoms are only alleviated by complete avoidance of gluten.

Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, also a registered nurse, carried the resolution in debate on the House floor. “Even as a nurse I was surprised at the high percentage of people with Celiac disease that aren’t aware they have it,” Rep. Wilson said. “I believe that this resolution will heighten awareness to reduce this percentage. I am proud to be a cross-sponsor of this important resolution.”

House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, who also supported the resolution, said, “For those of us with Celiac disease, we know the importance of raising awareness of the disease and its symptoms. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking treatment can really improve a person’s well-being.”

“Our goal is to help Alaskans by increasing public awareness of this under-diagnosed disease,” Sen. Giessel said. “It’s amazing how many Alaskans have talked to me about having Celiac disease since I introduced this resolution. Extrapolating from national estimates, there are probably 5,000 Alaskans who could have Celiac disease, most of them unaware of what’s causing their symptoms, and who could be helped by a heightened awareness of it.”

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