Health District Sets Up Hotline in Hepatitis C Scare

Health officials say about 40,000 patients are going to be getting word that they need to be tested immediately for exposure to HIV and hepatitis strains B and C -- and a lawsuit was filed Thursday night.

Endoscopy Center Health Fear Upsets Patients, Valley Residents

They're trying to reach patients who visited the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada on Shadow Lane between March 2004 and January 11, 2008. They're believed to have been exposed to the disease when anesthesiologists reused syringes to administer medications. So far, six people are confirmed to have contracted hepatitis C after receiving anesthesia from the center. It's being called the largest notification of its kind in U.S. history.

The Southern Nevada Health District has information available on their website regarding the investigation and a hotline has also been set up.

Southern Nevada Health District Hotline is (702)759-4636 (INFO)

SNHD officials say they first learned of the problem in early January, when a routine investigation process found that practitioners at the Endoscopy Center were using the same syringe on more than one patient -- exposing those patients to the blood of other patients.

The patients who received anesthesia injections during the time period in question are being advised to get their blood tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. The health district is not handling the testing and is advising people to go through their own doctors to make arrangements.

"It's obviously a very serious health concern for those people who were potentially exposed and they do need to get tested but they don't need to run to the emergency room tonight. We want them to make an appointment with their doctor to discuss their concerns and get the appropriate treatment for their particular circumstances," said Brian Labus, Southern Nevada Health District.

There are no public funds to cover the cost of testing but the health district can refer people to clinics in Las Vegas that offer low-cost testing.

The Southern Nevada Health District is solely responsible for the outbreak investigation -- it does not have the authority to close the clinic.

The Nevada State Health Division regulates these medical clinics and says the deficiencies thought to have caused the exposure problem have been corrected and until its investigation is complete -- we won't know what disciplinary measures, if any, will be taken against the clinic or its physician operators.


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