Natalie Cole is being treated for hepatitis C

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Natalie Cole has been has been diagnosed with hepatitis C,  a contagious liver disease spread by infected blood, according to the Associated Press.

A statement from Cole's camp revealed that the virus was found during a routine exam and that she likely contracted the virus during drug use many years ago. It is a common cause of liver disease and is reported to affect 13 in 1,000 people. Approximately 10% to 20% of those infected will develop cirrhosis and 1% to 5% will develop liver cancer. Click here for more information on the disease.

"I've been so fortunate to have learned so much from my past experiences," said the Grammy-winning singer. "I am embraced by the love and support of my family and friends; I am committed to my belief in myself and in my abiding faith to meet this challenge with a heartfelt optimism and determination. This is how I intend to deal with this current challenge in my life."

Her Cedars-Sinai Medical Center physician, Dr. Graham Woolf, told AP that Cole has had a "terrific response to her medication and is now virus negative."

Cole is recovering from side effects of the treatment, including fatigue, muscle aches and dehydration.

More than likely, if she is responding to treatment, Cole carried the hep C virus genotype 2 or 3, both of which respond better to the current Peginteferon/Ribavirin treatments  than genotype 1.

Photo: WireImage

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