Drug Diversion Suspected in New Hampshire Hepatitis C Cases
Officials said Wednesday that an employee misusing drugs is the most likely cause of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) outbreak at Exeter Hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab. In addition, the window of time when patients may have been at risk of infection has been expanded.
When the state began investigating the outbreak in mid-May, the only link officials could find among the four patients diagnosed with the same HCV strain was that they had been treated at the lab. Since then a total of 20 people, including one hospital worker, have been diagnosed with the HCV strain.
The drug-diversion scenario officials are focusing on typically would involve someone injecting themselves with a syringe to receive medication intended for patients, then re-using the same syringe on patients.
“Based on all the testing we’ve done, based on all the interviews we’ve performed with employees and with patients, the review of the hospital data, all of this information points toward drug diversion as the most plausible explanation,” said Dr. José Montero, New Hampshire’s public health director.
“This is really disturbing. We as a department want to make sure health care quality is maintained across the board,” Montero said. “Certainly this is a really unfortunate situation. Nobody goes to a health care facility expecting to get sick.”
About 730 people have been tested so far, and several hundred more are expected to do so. Those who need to be screened now include all of the lab’s patients seen since October 2010, Montero said.
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