More Hep C Cases Linked To Scrub Tech

The number of people infected with <"">hepatitis C and potentially linked to one former surgical technician has risen to 35, up from 21 last month. The Denver Post reported that the infected patients said they had no indication they were infected prior to their surgeries at either the Rose Medical Center in Denver, Colorado or the Audubon Surgical Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Kristen Diane Parker, 26, who has hepatitis C, allegedly stole fentanyl syringes for her own use and, after injecting herself, replaced the fentanyl with saline. Parker is accused of returning the dirty saline-filled syringes to the hospitals’ supplies, and they were eventually used to treat patients.

In Colorado, Parker worked at Rose Medical Center from October 21 to April 13 and at Audubon Surgery Center from May 4 until June 29. Parker also worked at Christus St. John Hospital outside Houston, Texas between May 2005 and October 2006, the Associated Press (AP) previously reported, and at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York’s Mount Kisco between October 8, 2007, and February 28, 2008. Investigations are ongoing in all three states and patients continue to be tested.

As for the 35 patients, prosecutors believe they were all infected with the dangerous blood borne disease as a result of Parker’s illegal activities; however, additional laboratory testing is required in order to confirm if Parker is the source in these cases, said the Denver Post.

Parker was indicted on July 23 on 42 counts by a federal grand jury, 21 counts of product tampering and 21 counts of obtaining a controlled substance by deceit, reported the Denver Post previously. These charges, said the Denver Post, only relate to Parker’s alleged activities at Rose. Parker was also charged with three criminal counts earlier in the month that were connected to stealing Fentanyl, the Denver Post noted. The Denver Post reported that additional charges could be made in future indictments and that, if convicted, Parker could face life in prison. Parker is currently jailed without bond.

The Denver Post just noted that the original 21 counts each have been reduced to 19 counts each as of Friday. The reduction in charges was made because prosecutors are looking to focus on the 19 cases that are “easiest to prove,” said the Denver Post.

According to The Denver Post last month, of the initial 20 hepatitis C cases that were are a preliminary match to Parker, all were found among people treated at Rose. A 21st case was an Audubon patient, but officials there told the Denver Post that the case will eventually prove to be unconnected once more genetic testing is complete. The current total 35 cases reported from Colorado have connections to one of the two Colorado sites.

In August we reported that five of over 1,200 former surgical patients at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York have also tested positive for the hepatitis C virus. Three of those patients apparently contracted the disease prior to Parker’s employment at the facility. A former patient has filed suit against the hospital, claiming he contracted the disease from Parker. The plaintiff in the lawsuit underwent outpatient ankle surgery at Northern Westchester in 2007.

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