Due to a widely publicized outbreak, 63,000 southern Nevada residents already have been screened for hepatitis C virus, giving the state an early start in complying with CDC’s recent recommendation that everyone born between 1945 and 1965 undergo HCV testing.
In 2008, officials informed patients about potential exposure to hepatitis B and C and HIV at Dr. Dipak Desai’s clinics, where nurse-anesthetists had reportedly reused propofol vials after they became contaminated with HCV. Last week, Desai and two nurse-anesthetists were indicted on second-degree murder charges following the death of one of nine patients whose HCV infections were linked to the clinics. Another 106 cases are “possibly linked,” health officials say.
Brian Labus, epidemiologist for the Southern Nevada Health District, said, “Because we had the big outbreak here a few years ago, and we followed up and tested potential victims, we have a head start.” He added it is possible that 1 percent of Nevadans could have HCV.
According to CDC, baby boomers account for about two-thirds of the estimated 3.2 million HCV-infected people in the United States, and HCV-related illnesses kill more than 15,000 Americans annually. “Unless we take action, we project deaths will increase substantially,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in announcing the recommendations.
[PNU editor’s note: The Associated Press reported on Aug. 22 that a Clark County District Court spokesperson said Desai and former clinic nurse-anesthetists Ronald Lakeman and Keith Mathahs all pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charges.]
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