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Pamela Anderson Says She Has Hepatitis C

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In Atlanta, Sacred Heart Tattoo shop was voted as "the best in the city" in a local survey. "Ask me anything," says owner and tattoo artist Chris Clark.

How can you know if a tattoo shop is safe?

  • Ask questions about sterilization procedures, says Clark. "If people really want to see the autoclave, the sterile room, the biohazard room, we'll show them. We'll explain how the autoclave works."
  • Make sure the shop is APT certified. The APT offers eight-hour courses on blood-borne pathogens, safety, and prevention procedures. Since many cities and states do not require city certification, APT certification is the only way to ensure sterile operating procedures, says Clark.

    To combat hepatitis C and other similar germs, APT-member tattoo artists are taught to autoclave their equipment, use individual portions of ink and lubricant, and dispose of used needles according to federal guidelines set up by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. They also use EPA-registered "virucidals" to clean their stations in between clients. For more information about these procedures, check out "Basic Guidelines for Getting a Tattoo" at the APT web site, www.safetattoos.com.

  • Ask to see the monthly reports of autoclave tests -- called "spore tests" -- an indication the sterilization equipment is working properly.

If tattoo artists won't talk about these things, "get out of there," says Clark.

Other ways to get infected with hepatitis C include:

  • Sharing needles for injection drug use.
  • Being born to a mother with HCV infection.
  • Getting a blood transfusion from someone with HCV infection. Before 1992, blood could not be tested for HCV. Since 1992, all blood donated in the U.S. gets tested for the virus. If you had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before June 1992, ask your doctor about being tested for HCV.
  • It's possible to get HCV from someone you live with if you share items such as razors or toothbrushes that might have had his/her blood on them.
  • Rarely, a person can get HCV from having unprotected sex with an infected person. This is more likely to happen if the infected person also has another sexually transmitted disease. You cannot get HCV from kissing or shaking hands with an infected person.

A drug called interferon is used to treat hepatitis C. A new form of interferon, called peg-interferon, works even better. When this form of interferon is combined with another drug called ribavirin, up to 50% to 60% of people can be cured.

Treatment for hepatitis C can take the better part of a year. It's no walk in the park: the treatment usually makes people feel like they have a bad case of the flu. It can even make your hair fall out. These effects go away after treatment. Your doctor usually can tell after a few weeks whether the treatment is working.

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