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New Jersey Hepatitis B Outbreak Likely Linked to One Oncologist

Apr 3, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
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Thousands of patients of a New Jersey oncologist must undergo testing for some serious blood borne diseases such as hepatitis B; hepatitis C; and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.  

According to the Associated Press (AP), New Jersey health officials have confirmed that about 3,000 people treated by Dr. Parvez Dara must be tested for the diseases after five of his patients reportedly tested positive for hepatitis B.  Hepatitis B is a liver infection that can be transmitted through blood and blood products.

The first two cases were confirmed in February and the remaining three were confirmed more recently.   Dara has offices in Toms River and Manchester, New Jersey, the AP reported.  Following the confirmation, health officials sent a letter—dated March 28—to all of Dara’s patients going back to 2002 and warning them of the risks of the blood borne diseases and urging them to receive testing, said the AP.

The source and cause of the transmission remain unclear, said the AP; however, Fox News reported that New Jersey health officials believe shoddy injection practices might be to blame.  Dara, who treats cancer patients and patients with blood disorders, said the AP, administers chemotherapy, which is injected, at his offices, said Fox News.

The state is looking to temporarily suspend Dara’s medical license said Asbury Park Press (APP) and Dara is scheduled to face the state Board of Medical Examiners today, said Fox News; the regulators will also look at the possibility of other health code violations.  For now, Dara is not performing procedures and is only handling patient consultations, the AP reported.

While Dara’s attorney claims that the five patients also were seen at the same hospital and claims they could have been contaminated there, health officials argued that the hospital was ruled out as an infection source. "The investigation looked at all sites where the patients received care....  The only common site was the physicians' office," said state Health Department spokeswoman Marilyn Riley, quoted the AP.

APP reported that a 32-page court order requested late last month by Attorney General Anne Milgram sought "the suspension or revocation of the license of Respondent to practice medicine and surgery.  It being alleged in the Complaint that Respondent is presently incapable of safely discharging the functions of a licensee and it being further alleged that the continued practice of medicine and surgery by Respondent pending final disposition of the Verified Complaint represents a clear and imminent danger to the public health safety and welfare.”

The APP indicated that officials for the state Department of Health and Senior Services and the Ocean County Health Department conducted the investigation.  Letters were sent to 2,800 former and current patients of Dara.

Patients in possession of the health department’s letter, an insurance card, and identification can obtain blood testing at one of Community Medical Center’s outpatient labs (contact Ocean County Health Department at 1-732-341-9700 ext 7502 for locations); appointment are not required, said APP.  Patients are also free to have blood testing conducted at their own health car provider.

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