New York City Officials Urge 1,000 Patients of Manhattan Doctor to Get Hepatitis, HIV Tests, Citing Concerns over ‘Improper’ Injections
New York City health officials are urging more than 1,000 patients of a Manhattan doctor to be tested for HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B amid speculation that "improper administration" of injections may have caused a number of the doctor's patients to contract hepatitis B, the New York Times reports. City health investigators have determined that at least 20 of Dr. Seymour Halpern's patients have contracted hepatitis B, although it is not clear how they were exposed to the virus. The infected patients had all received injections at Halpern's office, and city health department officials said that the infections might be related to "the improper administration of injectable medications from multidose vials" (Murphy, New York Times, 1/13). Dr. Marcelle Layton, assistant commissioner for communicable diseases at the city health department, said that officials are not sure if contaminated needles are the source of the outbreak, but added that "preliminary evidence is very suggestive" that the disease was transmitted in this way. Layton added that most of the infected patients were between 50 and 95 years old and had "none of the common risk factors" for hepatitis B, which can be transmitted through unprotected sex or contaminated hypodermic needles (Katz, New York Daily News, 1/13). City health officials have sent letters to 1,040 of Halpern's patients advising them to be tested for HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B. Although there have been no reported infections of hepatitis C or HIV among Halpern's patients infected with hepatitis B, patients are being advised to be tested for all three diseases because they can all be transmitted through injections. Layton said that there is no evidence of any additional hepatitis B infections among Halpern's patients, but urged individuals to be tested because the disease can take six months to appear (New York Times, 1/13). In addition, 30% of people infected with hepatitis B are asymptomatic (New York Daily News, 1/13). Halpern's lawyer, James Fabian, stated that there is no evidence linking the infections to the doctor's practice, but added that Halpern recognizes that "it is appropriate to explore this possibility" (New York Times, 1/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.