As a result of colonoscopy problems at Veteran Affairs (VA) medical centers in Tennessee, Florida and Georgia, at least 10 people have tested positive for Hepatitis after they were exposed to contaminated equipment during their examination.
Thousands of veterans have been urged to obtain blood test after it was found that endoscopic equipment used to perform colonoscopy exams at clinics in Murfreesboror, TN, Augusta, GA and Miami, FL may not have been properly sterilized between patients, potentially increasing the risk of infection.
The Department of Veteran Affairs confirmed on March 27, 2009, that at least 10 people have tested positive for an infectious liver disease after being treated at one of the clinics. Six of the cases involved Hepatitis C, a potentially fatal viral infection that can cause permanent damage to the liver. The other four cases involved Hepatitis B, a milder form of the disease with symptoms like jaundice.
In February 2009, the VA sent letters to about 6,400 patients who had undergone a colonoscopy between April 23, 2003 and December 1, 2008 at Alvin C. York Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, near Nashville.
The same month, another 1,800 letters were sent to patients treated at an ear, nose and throat clinic at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia between January 2008 and November 2008.
As a result of subsequent reviews of practices at VA medical centers throughout the United States, another letter was sent earlier this month to 3,260 patients who underwent a colonoscopy at the Miami Veterans Affairs Healthcare System between May 2004 and March 12, 2009.
All of these letters have recommended that individuals obtain blood tests for hepatitis, HIV and other infectious diseases.
The VA colonoscopy problems appear to have been caused by human mistake, leading VA Medical Centers throughout the United States to institute special training sessions.