Officials warn 40,000 patients of US clinic of hepatitis C scare

Other News Materials 29 February 2008 10:18 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - US health officials Thursday are contacting 40,000 patients of a Las Vegas clinic that reused syringes and medicine vials to notify them they may have been infected with HIV and hepatitis.

Six patients of the clinic were diagnosed with acute cases of hepatitis C since January, a rate three times higher than the yearly average for the Las Vegas region, prompting an investigation by the health district, reported the Las Vegas Sun.

Investigators from the Southern Nevada Health District found five of the infected people all received anesthesia injections on the same day at the endoscopy clinic where the practice of reusing single-dose vials was commonplace.

"It was one of those policies where the staff members told us this was what they were told to do - they admitted this is what (they) have been doing," Brian Labus, senior epidemiologist of the Health District told the Las Vegas Sun. "It wasn9t any one particular staff member. It was something that was basically seen across the clinic as a common procedure."

The hospital did not explain why it reused syringes, but did say that action has since been taken by the clinic to end such practices.

In a statement the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada said, "the actual risk of anyone being affected by this is extremely low, but as a precaution, anyone who has undergone procedures at the Endoscopy Center who required anesthesia should be tested."

Hepatitis C can cause severe liver damage, but the symptoms may not show up for several years.

"I never even thought twice about them not using new syringes," patient Diana Andrade told KVBC television station. She now fears her procedure could have an widespread impact, "All my grandchildren, my kids, everybody. My husband as well needs to be tested."