More than 80 patients of a Fremont, Neb.-based cancer clinic have contracted hepatitis C, likely due to "poor infection control" at the clinic, state health officials told the Omaha World-Herald. Health officials have tested 485 patients since discovering the outbreak of the disease and found that 82, including the patient believed to be the origin of the outbreak, are infected with the hepatitis C virus. Letters were sent in October to 612 patients who were treated at the clinic between March 1, 2000, and December 31, 2001, advising them to seek voluntary testing. The clinic was closed earlier this fall after the outbreak was reported.
State inspectors believe the infections occurred when a worker at the clinic reused a contaminated hypodermic needle to treat several patients or used a contaminated needle to draw medication from a vial, thereby contaminating all of the remaining medication in the container. The state is conducting a public investigation to find the exact cause of the outbreak and to determine if clinic operator Tahir Javed or any members of his nursing staff should face criminal charges. At least 15 of the infected clinic patients have filed lawsuits against Javed and the clinic.