Endoscopy Center Hepatitis Outbreak Linked to Unsafe Injection Practices

Last year’s hepatitis C outbreak linked to the <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/Endoscopy_Center">Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and its sister clinic, Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center, could have been prevented, according to a report recently issued by the Southern Nevada Health District. The outbreak, which likely infected as many as 115 clinic patients with hepatitis C, was the result of unsafe injection practices.

The hepatitis C outbreak was first detected in late 2007. At least 50,000 former Endoscopy Center patients and 13,000 former Desert Shadow Center patients were notified to receive testing for hepatitis B, C, and HIV. To date, there have been no links between the outbreak and any hepatitis B or HIV cases.

Both the Endoscopy Center and Desert Shadow were affiliated with Dr. Dipak Desai, a prominent Nevada gastroenterologist. Both clinics have since been closed, and Desai surrendered his license to practice medicine during health district and police investigations. Meanwhile, he and other former clinic owners face over 120 lawsuits alleging medical negligence, as well as a separate class-action suit initiated by patients who did not fall ill but are claiming emotional distress.

According to The Las Vegas-Review Journal, the outbreak was the largest health-care-related hepatitis C outbreak in U.S. history, and could cost as much as $21 million in investigative and medical expenses. The Health District’s report said more than 9 percent of the county’s households had a member who could have been exposed, and more than 14 percent of the county’s residents ages 65 to 69 were at risk.

Through interviews and observations, investigators identified a combination of unsafe injection practices at the clinics, including reusing syringes on a single patient and reusing vials of anesthetic between patients. Some nurse anesthetists told investigators they were instructed to use the unsafe practices. While they could not definitely tie these practices to the infections, they ruled out all other possible sources of hepatitis C, the Review Journal said.

After announcing the outbreak and patient notification in February 2008, health officials set up a hot line that took 35,391 calls through the end of October 2008. At one point the line took 510 calls in one hour, the Review Journal said.

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