Positive HIV Test Found Among Veterans Treated with Tainted Equipment

Among the thousands of veterans tested after being exposed to contaminated medical equipment used during colonoscopies and other procedures at three different VA clinics, the Department of Veteran Affairs has found at least one positive HIV test and another 16 positive tests for hepatitis B or C.

Most of the reported infections were tied to treatment at the Alvin C. York Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where 11 of the cases may have developed. The other six cases were linked to the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia.

Patients treated at the Miami Veterans Affair Healthcare System in Florida were also warned to be tested, but no confirmed cases of HIV or hepatitis have been identified yet at that facility.

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All three VA clinics were using endoscopic equipment that appears to have become contaminated when a valve in the equipment was incorrectly connected and the tubing was not cleaned appropriately between patients.

More than 10,000 veterans were warned that they may have been exposed to bodily fluids of other patients, potentially posing a risk of developing HIV or hepatitis. The 17 positive tests were identified out of the 3,174 test results which have been received so far.

In addition to the one positive HIV test result, 5 cases of hepatitis B have been identified and 11 cases of hepatitis C, a more serious and potentially fatal liver disease.

VA officials indicate that they are still investigating whether there is a correlation between the positive test results and the contaminated equipment. Epidemiological evaluations are being conducted to determine if the veterans who have contracted hepatitis have a similar strain of the virus.

Since the VA clinic infection problems were identified, safety procedures at all facilities throughout the United States have been reviewed and special training programs have been instituted to help prevent similar issues in the future.

Additional personnel have been called in to help with counseling and testing at the affected cinics, and the VA has established a twenty-four hour toll-free information line for concerned VA patients and their families at (877) 575-7256.

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