More Dix Hills Doctor Patients Test Positive for Hepatitis

Six more patients of Dix Hills doctor Harvey Finkelstein have tested positive for hepatitis B, while another six have been found to have hepatitis C, according to the Nassau County Health Department.  Of the 119 patients tested thus far, no one has tested positive for HIV.  But this could only be the tip of the iceberg, as an additional 149 others treated by the Dix Hills doctor are scheduled for testing in the coming days,  and the state has notified more than 1,200 of Finkelstein’s patients that they should be also be tested.

Finkelstein is the Dix Hills doctor whose <"">medical malpractice exposed patients-infecting at least one with hepatitis C-to blood-borne pathogen infections because of his routine practice of reusing syringes.  Finkelstein remains under review for inferior infection control practices and record keeping.  New York officials investigating the doctor have expanded their investigation, bringing the number of patients involved to nearly 1000; Finkelstein’s patient base reaches into the thousands.  Finkelstein, an anesthesiologist since 1981, continues to practice at the Pain Care Center of Long Island and has admitting privileges at the New Island Hospital in Bethpage, the North Shore University Hospital in Plainview, and the Long Island SurgiCenter in Melville.

State Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) is convening a hearing today on the Dr. Harvey Finkelstein case.  State Health Commissioner Richard Daines is scheduled to appear and speakers have been designated; the public is invited and anyone can submit written testimony.  Hannon, the head of the Senate’s health committee, decided to hold the hearing as the Finkelstein controversy unfolded last month.  The health department came under fire because it took almost three years to notify hundreds of patients of the transmission and to urge them to be tested. 

State health department spokeswoman Claudia Hutton cautioned that because the virus may have mutated in people’s bodies since 2004-when Finkelstein was discovered reusing syringes in multi-dose vials–it’s impossible to determine whether the infections stemmed from his improper practices.  Hutton asserted that the state’s investigation of specific cases involving Finkelstein patients is done, that the epidemiological investigation is over, and the health department does not intend on doing anything about test results.  Once the health department notifies people to urge them to get tested and to seek appropriate care, there issue falls out of its purview.  In early 2006, the state used genetic fingerprinting to confirm the transmission of hepatitis C in Finkelstein’s office, but because viruses mutate over time, it’s too late to use that technique now.

Hepatitis C and B are both forms of viral hepatitis transmitted by infected blood, C causes chronic liver disease and B causes fever, debility, and jaundice.  HIV is a retrovirus leading to AIDS and also transmitted by blood.  Full-blown AIDS is invariably fatal.  Hepatitis C is the most common chronic blood-borne viral infection in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  About 4.1 million Americans have been infected with the virus, and 3.2 million of those have a chronic infection that can last for the rest of their lives.  One in 20 Americans will get hepatitis B at some point in their lives, according to the CDC; about 1.25 million Americans have a chronic hepatitis B infection.

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