Quebec Health Department Recommends HIV, Hepatitis Tests for People Who Received Unsanitary Acupuncture Treatments
The Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services on Friday sent letters to 1,071 people recommending that they undergo tests for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV after being treated by an unlicensed acupuncturist who had been reusing unsterilized needles since 1979, the Montreal Gazette reports. Although officials said that the chance of transmitting HIV or hepatitis through acupuncture needles is "very low" -- only one such case of HIV transmission has been documented -- officials are recommending that anyone who was treated by Suzanne Sicotte be tested. Sicotte, who on Monday pleaded guilty to seven violations of Quebec's code of professions for acupuncturists, has agreed to stop practicing acupuncture and was fined $5,200. The Quebec Order of Acupuncturists in January began investigating Sicotte after a patient reported that Sicotte was using unsterilized needles. Inspectors from the health ministry on the recommendation of the order began their own investigation and found that Sicotte was disinfecting her acupuncture needles instead of sterilizing them. Since April 2003, the order has recommended that all needles be discarded after a single use (Derfel, Montreal Gazette, 3/16). John Carsley, head of the infectious diseases division of the Montreal Public Health Department, said that the department is publicizing the case to try to reach patients for whom they did not have contact information, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail. Horacio Arruda, director of public health for the Quebec health ministry, said that patients of other acupuncturists had no reason to be tested or to be concerned, the Globe and Mail reports (Picard, Globe and Mail, 3/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.