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Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin this year’s pre-rally crowd of motorcyclists included an estimated 700 members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang. 

STURGIS | This year’s pre-rally crowd of motorcyclists included an estimated 700 members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, participating in their USA Run in the Black Hills.

Speaking at Friday’s news conference, the first daily meeting with reporters through the run of the 78th Sturgis motorcycle rally, Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin said the gathering was a “mandatory run” for the Angels.

“What that means I guess they could tell you,” Merwin said. “So we did have a larger presence of Angels than we normally would have.”

“The run officially ends today (Friday),” he said. “Some will leave and some will stay.”

Merwin said the week preceding the official start of the Sturgis rally has been quiet in spite of the added influx.

“It’s been good,” he said. “We haven’t had any big issues.”

Merwin said many motorcycle gangs and clubs, including the Sons of Silence and Bandidos, have an annual presence at the Sturgis rally. Some gangs own property in the Sturgis and Black Hills area to host their members. 

“We get all of them every year,” Merwin said.

Hepatitis C testing at the rally

The American Legion is teaming up with AbbVie, a pharmaceutical company, to provide free testing for the hepatitis C (Hep C) bloodborne pathogen during this week’s Sturgis motorcycle rally.

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American Legion spokesman Dave Baughman said the Sturgis rally is the first location for the Take On Hep C testing program in the U.S.

Testing with same-day results available will start today and continue through Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day at the First National Bank, 955 Main St., in downtown Sturgis.

Baughman said 3.4 million people in the U.S. may be living with Hep C and not know it. The disease is spread through blood-to-blood exposure, through transfusions, receiving tattoos or body piercings in unregulated settings, or sharing razors and even toothbrushes.

Untreated, the disease could manifest as liver disease or even liver cancer.

Baughman said the free testing is available for anyone, although 1 in 20 veterans enrolled with the Veteran’s Administration have Hep C, more than three times the infection rate of the general population, according to a news release.

“If you are positive, we can also get you going down the path to getting the cure that you need,” Baughman said.

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