Nebraska Health Officials File Disciplinary Petition Against Doctor Linked to Hepatitis C Outbreak
Nebraska Health and Human Services System officials on Tuesday began disciplinary action against Dr. Tahir Javed, who operated a Fremont, Neb.-based clinic where at least 99 patients became infected with hepatitis C because of substandard infection control at the clinic, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (O'Hanlon, AP/Long Island Newsday, 7/29). Clinic officials discovered the outbreak in October 2002, and the clinic was officially closed within a month. Health officials 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. Health officials sent letters to 612 patients who had received treatment between March 2000 and December 2001 advising them to get tested for hepatitis C (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/20/02). NHHSS's petition against Javed alleges that one of the patients infected at the clinic died. The petition also charges Javed -- who has since returned to Pakistan -- with unprofessional conduct, stemming from allegations that Javed had a sexual relationship with one of his patients, falsely told her that she had a terminal illness, impersonated other doctors and attempted to cancel laboratory work and discouraged the patient from seeking other medical advice. The charge could lead to a revocation of Javed's medical license, the AP/Newsday reports.
Richard Nelson, NHHSS head of regulation and licensure, said that the state is also investigating other clinic personnel in connection with the outbreak and could file other charges soon. Nelson declined to say if the health system would file charges against the nurse who is thought to have reused syringes or if action would be taken against other health care providers who did not notify health officials about the conditions witnessed in Javed's clinic. Patients have filed at least 70 lawsuits against Javed and the clinic, the AP/Newsday reports. Dr. Alexandre Macedo De Oliveira, a CDC epidemic intelligence service officer, said that the Freemont outbreak is the "largest [hepatitis C outbreak] of its kind in the nation, and perhaps the world," according to the AP/Newsday (AP/Long Island Newsday, 7/29).