Kristine Mayes already knew that Hepatitis C was a problem in Michigan's prison system: almost 18,000 inmates could have the disease, but what she wants people to know is that she has never been to jail, but was diagnosed 4 years ago with the same disease that can destroy the liver.
"More people have it than people realize. Everyone should get tested regardless of the risk factors," Kristine Mayes.
Hepatitis C cannot be spread through casual contact. Infection occurs after infected blood or bodily fluids are exchanged. That's why health officials say it's important to know who's at risk.
"These are individuals who have had blood transfusions prior to 1992, those who've had any type of body piercing, or tattoos. Those who've shared intervenes needles too. The risks of getting it sexually are small, but the number is on the rise, so you need to know if your partner is infected too," Dr. Peter Gulick, Infectious Disease Specialist.
Like Kristine, doctors encourage people to get tested because even though there's no cure or vaccine, treatments are available and can delay cirrhosis of the liver.
Kristine has no idea how she got infected, but says educating the public and running a local support group has helped her cope with the illness. She hopes her work will encourage more people to get tested.