Approximately 3,000 people treated at the offices of oncologist Dr. Parvez Dara in New Jersey, have been asked to obtain blood tests after five patients were diagnosed with Hepatitis B.
The New Jersey hepatitis outbreak first surfaced in February 2009, involving two patients of Dr. Dara. Three more cases were recently discovered, prompting the New Jersey Health Department to send letters to all patients treated at either of the oncologist’s offices in Toms River or Manchester.
The letter, dated March 28, 2002, warns that patients should be tested for diseases like HIV, hepatitis B and hepaitis C.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through the blood and is often obtained through use of infected needles or sexual contact. Although the five cases have not been definitively linked to Dr. Dara, they were generally older adults without other risk factors which raised concerns among health officials.
According to the Associated Press, Dr. Dara received violations involving infection control dating back to 2002, and the state Health Department has suggested that the small hepatitis outbreak in New Jersey appears to be linked to the methods used by his staff when administering injectable drugs, such as chemotherapy.
Last year, a similar Hepatitis outbreak in Las Vegas was linked to two endoscopy centers which were found to be reusing medication vials and syringes that were only meant for single-patient use. About 50,000 people treated at the clinics received similar warning letters urging them to obtain blood tests. At least 114 cases of Hepatitis C, a more severe and potentially fatal viral infection affecting the liver, were identified among patients treated at those clinics.
A number of hepatitis lawsuits were filed in Nevada by individuals who were treated at the Las Vegas clinics, including 6,000 people who were not actually infected but claimed they suffered severe emotional distress while awaiting the outcome of their blood tests.