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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I work in an office that's made up of cubicles, so there is little privacy. After two years at this job, I have, for the most part, learned to block out background noise. However, my co-worker "Gina," who sits in the cubicle next to mine, talks to herself constantly.

This woman provides me with a running diatribe of every single task she does all day long: "Hit enter, file-save -- OK, done!" "Open new file," "Delete," etc. Her monologue goes on and on. It's extremely distracting and annoying. I have talked to my bosses more than once about it, and they've talked to Gina, but still she continues.

I feel like I'm slowly going insane. And now that I'm pregnant, my nerves are even more on edge. Her constant verbalizing has become too much to bear. What's the answer, Abby? -- GOING NUTS AT WORK IN REDDING, CALIF.

DEAR GOING NUTS: Your co-worker may not even be aware that she's talking aloud when she does it. If it's possible, move to another cubicle. If it's not, then, in the interest of your mental health, invest in a pair of earphones that can mask her monologue with "white noise" or music -- anything to block out her muttering. Pregnancy is difficult enough without stress.

DEAR ABBY: Millions of Americans are infected by an insidious virus: hepatitis C. More than 100 new cases occur each day. Most people have no signs or symptoms when this virus attacks the liver -- their internal power plant -- and it can be seriously damaged without any warning.

It is critical that anyone who has experimented with injecting drugs (even just once), snorted cocaine, had a tattoo or body piercing, or shared a razor or toothbrush at any time, to ask their doctors for the simple blood test that detects hepatitis C. The test is not routinely done during a physical exam.

Consuming alcohol is a major problem for anyone who is hepatitis C-infected. Alcohol speeds the damage to the liver. This is why it is vital that hepatitis C be identified -- so further damage to the liver can be avoided and treatment options can be discussed.

This silent disease can be stopped. The first step is to find out if you are infected and to avoid infecting others. Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact, and while not easily spread through sex, it is possible.

We will send free information about hepatitis C to your readers if they send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to the Hepatitis Foundation International, P.O. Box 4600, Silver Spring, MD 20904. The Web site is: www.HepatitisFoundation.org.

Abby, thank you for helping your readers learn the facts and how to take control of their health. With your assistance, many lives can be saved. -- THELMA KING THIEL, CEO, HEPATITIS FOUNDATION INTERNATIONAL

DEAR THELMA: According to the information I have read, 4,000 deaths are attributed to hepatitis C each year. The highest incidence of this disease is in individuals between the ages of 30 and 49. However, an estimated 240,000 children in the United States have been exposed or are already infected.

Education and early treatment can reduce the number of fatalities. A word to the wise ...

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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