At Least 10 Hepatitis C Cases May Be Linked to Reuse of Needles at Nebraska Clinic
"At least" 10 cancer patients treated at a clinic in Fremont, Nebraska, are confirmed to have contracted hepatitis C -- possibly as a result of the reuse of needles -- in what health officials called the "biggest single episode of a health care-related infectious disease outbreak" in the state, the New York Times reports. According to Dr. Thomas Safranek, the state epidemiologist for the Nebraska Health and Human Services System, the exact cause of the outbreak is unknown. However, health officials have speculated that the infections may have occurred when a worker at the clinic, which specializes in chemotherapy and hematology, reused a contaminated needle and syringe to treat several people. Another possibility is that a worker used a contaminated needle to draw medication, thereby polluting the vial (Meier, New York Times, 10/17). Investigators believe the hepatitis C originally came from a patient who was infected before coming to the clinic (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/16). Health officials have sent letters to about 600 patients seen at the clinic from March 1, 2000, to Dec. 31 2001, recommending they be tested for the virus, and Safranek believes that an additional 10 people may be infected, the Times reports. This is the second "major outbreak" of hepatitis C at a health care site in recent weeks; the first occurred at an Oklahoma hospital where a nurse anesthetist reused needles (New York Times, 10/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.