Originally published on Advocate.com March 18 2004 12:00 AM ET
Health officials in Quebec announced Monday that more than 1,100 people should be screened for HIV and hepatitis infection after discovering a Montreal woman who illegally practiced acupuncture for 10 years with needles that were not properly sterilized, the Canadian Press reports. The risk of infection from acupuncture is extremely low, says John Carsley, head of infectious diseases for the Montreal public health department, but health officials are still contacting patients of acupuncturist Suzanne Sicotte who visited her between 1979 and January 2003. Sicotte, who has a Swiss diploma in acupuncture, was not registered with the professional order that represents acupuncturists in Quebec and did not follow Canadian rules requiring acupuncture needles to be heat-sterilized following their use. Sicotte instead dipped the needles in a chemical solution to clean them. Health officials say Sicotte's illegal practice escaped government oversight because she was not a member of the professional organization and did not advertise her services. She was fined $7,000 and ordered to stop practicing after a client complained about the sterilization procedures.