Nevada Confirms Seventh Hepatitis CaseMar 21, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Nevada health inspectors have identified a seventh person who contracted hepatitis as a result of unsanitary practices employed by a Las Vegas clinic. The clinic, the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center, is owned by the same physician who owns the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada. The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada was shut down earlier this month after health officials in Nevada traced six cases of hepatitis C to that clinic.
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. Ultimately, 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. Earlier this month, the health district sent letters to some 40,000 patients treated at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, warning them that they should be tested for hepatitis B, C and HIV.
The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada is owned by Dr. Dipak Desai, as is the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center. According to Nevada health officials, a patient treated at Desert Shadow tested positive for hepatitis C in 2006, but the illness was only recently reported to the Southern Nevada Health District. The patient, who tested negative before undergoing a procedure at Desert Shadow, was diagnosed with acute hepatitis C several weeks after the procedure.
In all, Desai heads up six clinics in the state. All of Desai's group either have been shut down or face operating restrictions pending the outcome of investigations into practices at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.
Meanwhile, Nevada health officials have finished inspecting all but two of Nevada's 50 similar clinics. Seven of the inspected clinics had "major infection control problems, such as the reuse of single-dose vials," according to a release from Gov. Jim Gibbons' office. Two others had "medium-level" issues such as sterilization problems, 17 had minor problems and the rest had no deficiencies.