'V.I.P.' Anderson Has Liver Disease

03/21/2002 at 10:25 AM EST

Bad news from "V.I.P." star Pamela Anderson. The former "Baywatch" beauty, 34, said in a statement Wednesday that she contracted the potentially fatal liver disease Hepatitis C by sharing a tattoo needle with rocker Tommy Lee while the two were married. She added in the statement that she has been undergoing outpatient treatment for the disease at the University of California, Los Angles Medical Center, Reuters reported. "I contracted Hepatitis C while sharing a tattoo needle with my ex-husband, Tommy Lee," she said. "Tommy has the disease and never disclosed it to me during our marriage." Anderson is in the midst of her bitter custody battle over her two children with Lee, 39, the former drummer for the band Motley Crue. Lee was not available for comment. According to the Centers for Disease Control Web site, "Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is found in the blood of persons who have this disease. The infection is spread by contact with the blood of an infected person." As for its seriousness, says the CDC, those who contract the disease carry the virus for the rest of their lives. Most will suffer some liver damage but many do not feel sick from the disease. Those who do have liver damage "may develop cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and liver failure, which may take many years to develop." The CDC also says that nearly 4 million people have Hepatitis C in the U.S., and the disease reportedly kills about 8,000 people every year.

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