New Hampshire Hospital at Center of Hepatitis C Scare

New Hampshire Hospital at Center of Hepatitis C ScareA New Hampshire hospital is at the center of a hepatitis C scare following reports that people treated there were testing positive for the dangerous blood borne disease.

Public health officials urge anyone treated at Exeter Hospital’s Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory since October 1, 2010 to be tested for the virus, said CNN. The alert followed reports that 20 employees and patients at the lab tested positive for hepatitis C, said New Hampshire’s public health director. All 20 have been advised, said CNN.

“These new test results are not surprising,” Dr. José Montero, director of New Hampshire Health and Services, told CNN. “We know that this is a very troubling situation and our thoughts go out to all those who have been affected,” he added.

Health officials believe that an infected hospital employee moved part of a medication dose by injecting that dose into him/herself and administering the remainder of the medication to patients, using the same needle, Montero said, explained CNN.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” said Montero, adding that testing continues and the suspect has not been publicly identified. Montero pointed out that, “We still may find more cases of hepatitis C that match this strain,” wrote CNN.

Of the over 700 samples that have been tested, 26 have tested positive for hepatitis C; however, six of the positive results involved a strain of hepatitis C that is different than the hepatitis C strain carried by the suspect. That strain is not related to the outbreak, according to Montero, said CNN.

The hospital expects to test more than 900 people, according to CNN

As we’ve explained, hepatitis C is a viral liver disease that can lead to chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, or cancer of the liver. The virus is spread by contact with infected body fluids. No vaccines exists for hepatitis C, which can  be fatal. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), liver disease caused by hepatitis C results in 12,000 deaths in the country every year, said CNN.

Blood borne diseases can be transmitted when an infected person is given a shot and either the needle or syringe is reused. Microscopic backflow can enter the syringe from the contaminated person and then also enter the medicine vial, which puts other patients receiving that medication at risk from the needle, the syringe, and drug vial. Hepatitis C is the most common chronic blood borne viral infection in the U.S. said the CDC, with about 3.2 million Americans suffering from lifelong, chronic infection.

We previously wrote that the CDC announced in 2009 that, based on its decade-long review, over 60,000 patients have been placed at risk for potentially deadly, blood-borne infectious diseases. According to the CDC, over the ten years prior to 2009, tens of thousands of American patients have been asked to undergo hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing because proper infection control practices were not followed. The CDC review of outbreak data indicated that, in that prior 10 years, there were 33 identified outbreaks that occurred outside of hospitals in 15 states, with 12 occurring in outpatient clinics, six taking place in hemodialysis centers, and 15 happening in long-term care facilities, for a total of 450 people acquiring HBV or HCV infections.

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