Hospital Infection Lawsuit Filed Over NH Hepatitis C Outbreak

At least eight former patients of a New Hampshire hospital have filed lawsuits claiming they were diagnosed with hepatitis C after being exposed to the infection by an employee while being treated at the facility. 

The complaints were filed by patients diagnosed with hepatitis C after visiting Exeter Hospital’s cardiac catheterization clinic between October 2010 and May 2012.

At least twenty people, including 19 patients and one staff member, have been diagnosed with hepatitis C in connection with the Exeter Hospital outbreak, and hundreds of other people have been notified that they require testing.

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The cause of the hepatitis C outbreak is currently under investigation by the state attorney general. However, state health investigators indicate that the outbreak was likely caused by an infected employee, who used needles to inject himself with drugs and then used the dirty needles on patients in the clinic.

The hospital issued a press release last week, announcing the formal investigation by the attorney general’s office. However, the hospital indicated that it is unlikely to make additional public comments regarding the case.

More than 600 patients have been notified that they may have been exposed to hepatitis C at the New Hampshire hospital, including 316 patients who received care at Exeter Hospital’s lab.

A similar hepatitis scare surfaced at a Colorado hospital in 2009, after a surgical technician stole injections of fentanyl, a powerful pain reliever and opioid, for herself, and then used the dirty needles to inject patients with saline solutions.

The hospital employee in that case, Kristen Diane Parker, did so knowing that she had hepatitis C, which she likely contracted from using dirty heroin needles. Thousands of former patients at several facilities where Parker previously worked were required to undergo testing for hepatitis and other blood borne diseases.

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease that can cause liver damage, including liver failure, cirrhosis and liver cancer. It is technically incurable, but very effective treatment has been able to eradicate the disease in some of those who contract it.

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