Health officials urge Kentuckians to get tested for Hepatitis C - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Health officials urge Kentuckians to get tested for Hepatitis C

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's a silent killer, working slowly but surely and damaging your liver beyond repair. 

"Generally speaking, people don't have signs or symptoms whatsoever," said University of Louisville nurse practitioner, Barbra Cave. "Then over the course of 10 or 20 years, there are still no symptoms."

The state of Kentucky leads the country in Hepatitis C cases. The disease brought to the forefront by Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson in the 1990s now infects over 38,000 Kentuckians.

"I like to say we're No. 1 with bourbon and horses, but we have Hepatitis C behind our name too," Cave said.

Nichole Blakenship was worried she could have it.

"I had a home tattoo done years ago," she said.

Blankenship's friend actually did the work. Little did they both know at the time, even if you have a clean needle, the disease could lurk in the ink.

As Hepatitis C became bigger over the years, the "what-ifs" began to weigh on Blakenship. 

"You don't want to live with a common cold, much less something you have to deal with the rest of your life," she said.

The wondering came to an end Friday during a test at St. Stephen Church. Blakenship is just fine. 

Others tested at more than a dozen screening sites in Louisville for World Hepatitis Day weren't as lucky.

A positive is by no means a death sentence. Hepatitis C can be treated.

"There's actually 13 FDA-approved cures for Hepatitis C," Cave said. "Getting cured is very easy."

Medication is simple to take and has few side effects.

The biggest obstacle is the stigma, which health officials in Louisville hope they're beating one test at a time.

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Free Hepatitis C screenings being offered at 14 Louisville locations this week

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