Utah Hospital Nurse Linked To Hepatitis C Warnings For 5,000 Patients

Following a report of Hepatitis C, a Utah hospital is notifying nearly 5,000 individuals that they may have been exposed to the the infection after receiving treatment from a former nurse at the facility between June 2013 and November 2014. 

The Utah Department of Health has been investigating the potential cases of Hepatitis C exposure at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, determining that certain patients treated at the hospital’s emergency room over a period of nearly one and a half years may be at risk.

The hospital is offering free blood tests to patients and is warning that symptoms may not surface years after contracting the infection. Hospital officials encourage all patients who were treated in the emergency room between June 2013 and November 2014 to be tested, regardless of whether or not they received a letter.

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Officials say the exposure was the result of a former nurse who had the same type of rare strain of Hepatitis C, genotype 2b. This strain accounts from only ten percent of cases in the U.S.

When a patient who had been treated at McKay-Dee Hospital was found to have the same type as the former nurse, officials became concerned.

The nurse, who was eventually fired, was allegedly stealing hospital resources, drugs and needles, for her own use. Officials are unsure exactly how transmission occurred in this case, but they are concerned that it may involve needles used by the nurse that were reused on patients. However, it is difficult to prove how the disease was spread.

The nurse came forward to the hospital and she was charged with several counts of possession of a controlled substance and theft. She plead guilty in May and her license was revoked.

The majority of patients who were potentially exposed live in Utah. Some were traveling from other areas, but all were treated in the ER from June 17, 2013, to November 25, 2014.

Officials said most of the patients who were potentially exposed will not contract Hepatics C, but it is still important to be tested and to receive the free blood test the hospital is offering.

Dormant Illness

The most common way of contracting Hepatitis C in the U.S. is through blood-to-blood contact, like IV drug use. Other less common ways are through tattoos or piercings from unlicensed parlors or being born to a mother with Hepatitis C.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C include, abdominal cramps, nausea, jaundice, and fever. However, most symptoms do not appear until six to seven weeks after exposure. Symptoms may not show up for years. The illness can spread even when symptoms are not present.

The chronic condition can lay dormant for up to 25 years, eventually causing serious liver problems, including liver failure and eventually death. More than 3.5 million people in the U.S. Are living with Hepatitis C. It is a chronic illness that can be managed with the correct medication.

Utah Health Department officials said the man who tested positive carried none of the usual hepatitis C risks.

The 4,800 notices were mailed out at the end of October to all patients treated in the ER during the time the nurse also worked there. Officials say the letters were sent mostly out of caution, but patients should still be tested.

Patients who were treated at McKay-Dee Hospital during that time and are worried of possible transmission can contact the Utah Department of Health at (801) 387 – 8580 for more information or to receive a free blood test to determine if they have been exposed.


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