Hepatitis Outbreak at Atlantic City HospitalApr 27, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Fifteen dialysis patients at a hospital in Atlantic City have been diagnosed with hepatitis C and health officials in New Jersey are unclear about the origin of the outbreak. Philly.com reports that the 15 patients contracted the serious, sometimes deadly, liver disease since 2005 at the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center.
According to Philly.com, administrators from the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s City Campus contacted the state this month after learning about the five recent cases of hepatitis C during an annual federally mandated hepatitis C testing of dialysis patients. The testing took place late last month and early this month and revealed that the five became positive for hepatitis C since they began undergoing treatment at AtlantiCare, said Philly.com, which noted that the Health Department said a link to the hospital has not yet been established.
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and can result in an acute illness, but most often becomes chronic and can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); there is no vaccination for hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person.
The state advised the hospital to review its past four years of patient records, which indicated that 10 other people also have hepatitis C, said Philly.com. The hospital confirmed that the 15 were part of a group of 245 patients. The hospital’s head of the division of nephrology, Mohammed Mourad, said it does not yet know how the patients contracted the liver disease.
According to Philly.com, New Jersey health officials indicate that, in 2007, that state saw over 100 acute and 7,000 chronic hepatitis C cases, adding that the Center’s dialysis unit treats between 70 to 80 kidney patients monthly, with patients visiting the center three times weekly for dialysis. Dialysis involves, says Philly.com, the patient’s blood being pumped into a dialysis machine, where it is filtered and returned to the patient’s body; dialysis machines at the center are inspected once every two years. The hospital maintains it follows “strict guidelines,” said Philly.com, that include disinfection and cleaning of the equipment, according to Rachel Davis Bohs, AtlantiCare's director of infection prevention and control.
The hospital, the state, and Atlantic County health officials are conducing an investigation to determine the cause of the virus, said Philly.com. Meanwhile, data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) indicates that the dialysis center has a lower-than-average patient survival rate when compared to the state.
Most recently, alleged malpractice at the Siouxland Urology Center in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota seems to be the culprit in exposing 6,000 patients to HIV and hepatitis. As with a variety of other similar contaminations, Siouxland Urology reused single use medical products, potentially passing on serious diseases to other patients. In a similar case in which medical equipment was rinsed—not sterilized—shoddy colonoscopies and endoscopies at Veterans Administration facilities exposed over 10,000 military veterans to HIV and hepatitis B and C following exposure to tainted equipment, with four patients testing positive for HIV, six for hepatitis B, and 19 for hepatitis C. At least one patient consulted with malpractice attorneys and more are expected.