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Nearly 100 Patients of Nevada Clinic Positive for HIV, Hepatitis, and More are Expected

Mar 14, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada could be responsible for blood borne infections diagnosed in at least 100 former patients.  Most of those victims contracted hepatitis or HIV following treatment at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, and now health officials in that state are trying to determine if those infections originated with the clinic's unsanitary practices.  What's worse, the 100 people already diagnosed with blood borne diseases might just be the tip of the iceberg, as health officials in Nevada fear as many as 40,000 people treated by the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada were exposed to infections.

The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada has been under investigation since early January, after health officials learned of three people who had been diagnosed with hepatitis C.   At that time the Southern Nevada Health District said a total of  six people were known to have contracted hepatitis C after being treated at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.  Five of them were treated the same day in late September; the sixth is believed to have been infected in July, the district said. The Southern Nevada Health District investigation revealed that “unsafe injection practices related to the administration of anesthesia medication might have exposed patients to the blood of other patients.”

The hepatitis C virus may have been spread when clinic staff reused syringes and used a single dose of anesthesia medication on multiple patients, the district said. A syringe would become contaminated by the backflow of blood when patients with a blood-borne disease were injected with medication, health officials said. That syringe, in turn, would be reused to withdraw medication from a different vial. That vial could become contaminated and result in infection.

Several Nevada trial lawyers have told the Las Vegas Review Journal that they are representing hepatitis and HIV patients who believe they were infected at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.  These victims are among the first to have received test results back after the Southern Nevada Health District sent letters warning patients of the clinic to get tested for hepatitis and HIV.  So far, more people have tested positive for these disease than anyone expected.

One lawyer told the Review Journal that he was now representing 52 people, while another is representing 20 clients.  Still another attorney said he was representing 25 former patients of the Endoscopy Center.  Most have tested positive for hepatitis C, although the lawyers said some were HIV positive.

Health officials have urged 40,000 patients of the Endoscopy Center to get blood tests for HIV and hepatitis strains B and C.  Health investigators estimate 4 percent of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada's patients will end up testing positive for hepatitis C.

The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada was closed and fined $3,000 because of these practices.  The owner of the clinic, prominent gastroenterologist Dipak Desai, has refused to answer questions about the outbreak. Unlike some nurses at the clinic, Desai has not surrendered his medical license. He agreed to “voluntarily cease the practice of medicine” until the state Board of Medical Examiners completes its investigation.

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