New Mexico: Blood Sugar Test Goes Bad at Event

Due to a medical error, up to 55 people who underwent free blood glucose screenings recently at Albuquerque's Indian Pueblo Cultural Center may have been exposed to blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C and HIV. University of New Mexico School of Medicine UNMSM officials made the announcement May 13 in the hopes they can locate those who may be at risk.

Students from the school's physician assistant program conducted the tests during the cultural center's American Indian Week Pueblo Days on April 24. The center's visitor list for that Saturday included more than 1,600 people from across the United States, as well as from Canada, Germany, Italy and Sweden.

The students failed to properly change needles on devices used to measure blood sugar. Similar to home glucose testers, the devices contain six lancets or needles that can be triggered to draw a blood sample. Each use requires the device to be advanced manually to load a new lancet. UNM officials said some students failed to change the lancets, resulting in the exposure risk.

Sam Giammo, a spokesperson for UNM's Health Sciences Center, said the devices should not have been used at the public event and not all of the students were properly trained to use them. Because the test results were immediate, the students did not keep records on participants.

Dr. Bob Bailey, associate dean for clinical affairs for UNMSM, apologized on behalf of the school. "Our best current assessment of the risk of infection is less than a 0.5 percent risk. Even though the risk is small, it is something we are very concerned about and are taking very seriously," he said.