LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former "Baywatch" beauty Pamela Anderson said on Wednesday she has contracted the potentially fatal liver disease Hepatitis C by sharing a tattoo needle with ex-husband Tommy Lee. Anderson, 34, whose barbed-wire tattoo rings her left arm, said in a statement she has been undergoing outpatient treatment for the disease at the University of California, Los Angles Medical Center. "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," said Anderson, who is embroiled in a child custody battle with Lee, the former drummer for the hard-rock band Motley Crue. Neither Lee, 39, nor his publicist was immediately available for comment. The former Playboy Playmate, who also stars in the syndicated TV series "V.I.P.," is seeking full custody of her two children with Lee, whom she divorced in 1998 following his arrest for hitting her. Lee pleaded no contest to a felony charge of spousal abuse for striking Anderson in the driveway of their Malibu home in February of that year and was sentenced to six months in jail and three years' probation. In April 1999, the Canadian-born Anderson said they were attempting a reconciliation, but the couple parted ways again. Most recently, Anderson has been dating recording star Kid Rock. Hepatitis C is a virus that results in inflammation, then scarring of the liver, a condition known as cirrhosis. In 20 percent of cases, the virus ultimately leads to liver failure and death, said Dr. Samuel Daniel, a leading expert on the disease at North General Hospital in Manhattan. He said Hepatitis C, the most serious form of Hepatitis, is contracted primarily through the sharing of contaminated intravenous needles. He said if Anderson shared tattoo needles with someone who was infected, she was "highly likely" to contract the virus. The disease kills about 8,000 people annually in the United States, and about 3.9 million Americans are believed to be infected with the virus, which often lies dormant for up to 10 years. Many people do not realize they have been infected until the virus is identified in a blood test. "This is a silent epidemic," he said. "We believe by 2010, we may have up to 30,000 to 39,000 people a year die of this disease." He said up to 46 percent of Hepatitis patients can be successfully treated with recent advances in medication administered for the disease.