Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Newsday Examines Three Cases of Hepatitis C Among Former Patients of Long Island Surgeon
Newsday on Sunday reported on the case of Dr.
Michael Hall, a cardiac surgeon at North Shore University Hospital who is believed to have infected at least three former patients with hepatitis C (Rabin, Newsday, 5/19). Hall learned that he was infected with hepatitis C last August, when he underwent a voluntary test for the virus. Hepatitis C virus samples from three of Hall's former patients were found to be "almost perfect genetic matches" with Hall's virus when tested by the CDC. According to investigators from the New York state Department of Health, Hall could be responsible for infecting four additional patients with hepatitis C during surgeries over the last nine years (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/12). Hall's case represents the first known instance in the Western Hemisphere of a surgeon transmitting hepatitis C to his or her patients, and the CDC says that such infections are "exceedingly rare." Current policy does not require surgeons to be routinely tested for bloodborne diseases, but some doctors say that these guidelines should be revisited. Dr. Robert Ball, assistant director of infectious diseases at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, said, "The majority opinion at the moment in this country is that the risk is low, so ignore it. I think that's wrong. How many infected patients does it take before we expand the guidelines?" Hall is still allowed to perform operations, but he is required to notify patients of his hepatitis C-positive status (Newsday, 5/19).
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