Forty People Exposed to Tissue or Organs from Oregon Donor with Hepatitis C
Oregon health officials are reporting that forty people received organs or tissue from a man with an undiagnosed case of viral hepatitis, the New York Times reports. Of the six people who received organs from the man, who died two years ago of a brain hemorrhage, five have died. One died of liver disease, possibly caused by exposure to the infected organ. Thirty-four additional people received tissue from the donor. Of those receiving tissue, four have tested positive for hepatitis C, three have tested positive but were found to have been infected before receiving the tissue and nine have shown no signs of infection. Health officials are searching for the remaining patients. According to Dr. Barna Tugwell, a CDC epidemiologist assigned to the Oregon Health Department, the tissue bank that collected the tissue and organs "did everything by the book" and tested the man's blood. However, the bank used a blood test that may not detect the virus for months after infection, she noted. While a different type of test is available that can detect hepatitis C two weeks after infection, it is not accurate on cadaver blood. "We assume what happened is a very rare circumstance," Tugwell said. However, she added that officials are not sure "how big a problem this is or how frequently we'll see it." The Times reports that the donor was probably not aware that he was infected with hepatitis C before he died. Hepatitis C is one of the "most important causes" of chronic liver disease in the United States, the Times reports. Approximately half of all end-stage liver disease and liver cancer cases are caused by the virus, which also accounts for 70% of chronic hepatitis cases (Blakeslee, New York Times, 10/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.