LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A new center to treat hepatitis C patients has opened in Kentucky.

University of Louisville Hospital says the center is needed: Kentucky has the nation’s highest infection rate for the blood-borne disease that can damage the liver. UofL Hospital Hep C Center opened Wednesday morning and saw its first patients later in the day.

Family nurse practitioner Barbra Cave, who leads the center, says only a few places exist in the area for treatment of the disease.

In the past, treating hepatitis C was a difficult process that lasted nearly a year and had multiple side effects.

Ashutosh Barve, the center’s medical director, said the current treatment involves taking one pill daily for 8-12 weeks and it has minimal side effects.