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National News

California: State Warns Hospitals, Clinics About Unsanitized Endoscopes

February 19, 2003

California's Department of Health recently sent letters to more than 1,000 state hospitals warning about the possible side effects to patients from unsanitized probes used in colon exams. The warnings follow advisories sent last month to 3,250 patients of the Sacramento-area Sutter Auburn Faith and Sonora Community hospitals urging patients to take blood tests for possible infectious diseases. None of the patients tested reported illnesses after being exposed to unsanitized colonoscopes. Olympus America Inc., the manufacturer of the probes, has also issued warnings to 2,200 hospitals nationally to guard against contamination that can spread hepatitis and human papilloma virus.

Though gastroenterologists have downplayed the threat, saying the chance of infection is one in 1.8 million, critics say the risk is greater and accuse governments and manufacturers of doing little to address the problem. David Lewis, who researched the issue for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the University of Georgia, said Olympus has known for a decade that some instruments have cavities that cannot be cleaned by hand. Other lawyers maintain clinicians rush the disinfecting process.

In New York, officials suspect contaminated colonoscopes as a possible cause for eight patients testing positive for hepatitis C. An unidentified Los Angeles man told the Los Angeles Times a 1998 colonoscopy exposed him to HPV. Last year, Olympus America Inc. recalled 4,000 endoscopes in the United States and 10,000 more internationally after reports that a part that came loose could become a trap for bacteria.

A California Health Care Association spokesperson urged people not to avoid tests used with the devices. "Colonoscopes save thousands of lives every year," said Jan Emerson. "As long as health care is provided by humans, there's always the chance that unfortunate things are going to happen. But that absolutely should not mean that people should stop getting these critical tests."

Back to other CDC news for February 19, 2003

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Adapted from:
Associated Press
02.13.03



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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