West Virginia Dental Clinic at Center of Hepatitis B Scare

Another case of shoddy infection-control practices is again making headlines. This time, said The Associated Press (AP), the outbreak involves <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/hepatitis">hepatitis B, some 2,000 people, and five states and Washington, D.C.

The 2,000 were urged to received hepatitis B testing following patients and volunteers at a free dental clinic in West Virginia contracting the blood borne disease, said the AP. Officials are concerned that low-income people might not be able to afford the care needed to determine that they are ill, which could allow them to further pass the disease along in their communities.

“The problem comes if there has been unrecognized transmission and someone is chronically infected,” said Danae Bixler, with the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health, quoted the AP. “They need to know that,” Bixler added.

This is the most recent in a string of similar incidents in which medical supplies have been tampered with or used in ways that expose countless patients to disease. Now, said the AP, letters have been sent to some 1,137 patients who underwent care at the Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic in Berkeley County in June 2009, 826 volunteers are receiving similar letters urging testing be conducted, said the AP.

Although the bulk of the letters are being sent to West Virginians, letters are being also being sent to patients who are located in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, said the AP.

Three patients and two volunteers developed acute hepatitis B this November, said the AP. Most of those involved came from West Virginia; however, people from nearby states were impacted due to a two-day event that drew out-of-state crowds, explained the AP. Although the origin of the disease remains unclear, testing confirms four people were likely infected by the same source, according to the AP.

Of those who develop hepatitis B, 10 percent develop a chronic form of the disease that can lead to liver damage, said the AP.

In a similar situation, the AP recently wrote that University of New Mexico School of Medicine (UNM) officials said that at least a few dozen people could be at risk for blood borne infectious disease. Free testing conducted on April 24 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, in which students were part of a physician assistant program during the American Indian Week Pueblo Days at the cultural center, created the risk of an outbreak. Over 1,600 international visitors—including visitors from Canada, Italy, Sweden, and Germany—were indicated on the visitor list, noted the AP.

In another related story, last month we wrote that injuries related to needlesticks and sharps have risen in the operating room (OR) following national legislation meant to reduce these dangers, according to research. The issue is that intravenous and other device administration can cause injuries to clinicians, patients, laboratory personnel, pharmacy staff, housekeeping personnel, and waste handlers by an exposed needle or other sharp. Consequences include serious cuts and exposure to blood borne pathogens such as HIV or the hepatitis B or C virus.

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