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U.S. News

Hepatitis C Link in Colorado Cases Not Found for Weeks

July 7, 2009

On Monday in Denver, a former surgical technician faced federal charges in a drug-theft scheme that potentially exposed thousands of patients to hepatitis C over a six-month period. Last Thursday, state officials announced that up to 5,700 patients at two surgical facilities should seek free blood screenings for hepatitis C.

The technician worked at Rose Medical Center in Denver between October 21, 2008, and April 22, 2009, and later at the Audubon Ambulatory Surgical Center in Colorado Springs between May 4 and June 29, 2009. She is alleged to have stolen syringes with the painkiller Fentanyl, then replaced them with saline-filled syringes she had previously used to inject herself.

In April, the state Department of Public Health and Environment first linked two hepatitis C cases to surgery at Rose. By June, a DPHE investigation turned up seven more recent hepatitis C cases linked to Rose surgeries.

A deeper review of surgery logs led state investigators to zero in on the technician, who by then had been terminated from Rose after testing positive for drug use. The technician had begun the process of transitioning to the ambulatory center before being fired from Rose, according to an Audubon administrator.

Tests administered before the technician started work at Rose indicated she might have hepatitis C. She was told to follow up with her doctor but did not do so. She did not disclose the possible infection to Audubon, which does not require the test.

The technician confessed to swapping the syringes in late June, said Ned Calonge, the state's chief medical officer. State authorities immediately ordered the technician to stop working with patients and pharmaceuticals and issued the public warning.

The technician reportedly told federal investigators she believes she contracted hepatitis C while sharing needles to inject heroin, which she said she used from 2006 to September 2008.

Back to other news for July 2009

Adapted from:
Denver Post
07.07.2009; Jennifer Brown; Michael Booth; Allison Sherry

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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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