CDC: Syringe Reuse Linked to Hepatitis C Outbreak

By admin

Originally published on Advocate.com May 19 2008 11:00 PM ET

A hepatitis C
outbreak was caused by workers improperly reusing syringes
and medicine vials at a Las Vegas clinic, federal health
officials said Friday.

The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention was contacted by state
health officials earlier this year after two people treated
at the now-closed Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada
were diagnosed with hepatitis C.

Officials have
linked 84 cases of the liver disease to the clinic after
notifying 50,000 patients of the clinic to be tested.

CDC investigators
said in a report to the Nevada State Health Division
that during visits to the clinic they saw employees reusing
syringes to give a sedative and that interviews
suggested it was common practice.

''This was
considered the most likely mode of transmission,'' the
report said.

The CDC said the
same syringe was used for an individual patient if more
sedative was needed. Backflow into the syringe from an
infected patient could have contaminated the sedative
vial. The virus could have been passed along from the
contaminated vial when it was improperly used for the
next patient, the CDC said.

About 400 former
patients of the center tested positive for hepatitis C
but officials have determined that most could have
contracted the virus through other means, including
intravenous drug use, blood transfusions, organ
transplants or kidney dialysis, receiving blood clotting
agents before 1987, or sexual contact with a person
with hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C
results in the swelling of the liver and can cause stomach
pain, fatigue and jaundice. It may eventually result in
liver failure. Even when no symptoms occur, the virus
can slowly damage the liver.

The Endoscopy
Center and several other clinics were headed by doctors
Dipak Desai and Eladio Carrera, whose Nevada medical
licenses have been suspended pending state Board of
Medical Examiners hearings.

Las Vegas police
have seized medical records from the clinics, and the
FBI, the state attorney general and the Clark County
district attorney are involved in a criminal
investigation. The owners of the clinics have
surrendered business licenses and paid $500,000 in fines.

Since 1999 the
CDC counts 14 hepatitis outbreaks in the U.S. linked to
bad injection practices.

The largest
outbreak occurred in Fremont, Neb., where 99 cancer patients
were infected at an oncology center from 2001 to 2002. At
least one died. (AP)