Nevada Hepatitis C Cases Rise, CDC Slams Endoscopy in New Report

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Atlanta, GASince the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada was first linked to the hepatitis C outbreak, more than 80 cases have been confirmed, and a damning report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta adds further fuel to the fire.

In a report summarized in the New York Times this morning, the CDC has blasted the Endoscopy Center for routinely mishandling injection equipment and medication vials, not to mention the failure to adhere to basic hand hygiene. The latter is something that hospitals and the entire medical community are paying increasing amounts of attention to, in an effort to mitigate serious infections and improve patient care.

Hand HygieneThe staff at the Endoscopy Center failed miserably at this, according to the CDC report.
Basic professional protocols, such as wearing gloves while administering intravenous medications, were simply not followed by staff. Officials charged with observing the practices at the clinic noted that IV stoppers were oft times not properly wiped down, syringes and vials were re-used and disinfectant cleaning baths designed to mitigate the spread of infection were used for TWO endoscopic procedures, rather than one which is recommended protocol.

Since the outbreak came to light in February, health officials in Nevada notified 40,000 past and current clients of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada of potential risk for hepatitis C infection, and urged them to get tested. However, with one infection originating from a sister clinic, the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center, officials quickly concluded that those numbers could be higher. So far, it has been reported that 50,000 panels of blood have been tested.

To date, 85 cases of hepatitis C have been confirmed. Seven cases have been directly attributed to the Endoscopy Clinic of Southern Nevada, 77 more than likely stemming from that primary Endoscopy clinic, and one directly linked to the Desert Shadow clinic.

Both Desert Shadow, and the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada were closed, and their business licenses revoked. A fine of $500,000 was levied and two of the Center's doctors have been mandated to stop practicing medicine, including Endoscopy owner Dr. Depak Desai.

Along with concern for hepatitis C, clients of the clinics were advised that they might also have been exposed to hepatitis B, as well as the H.I.V. virus. Clients are being screened for all three.

The outbreak is considered one of the largest in the United States. While the first seven cases were revealed in February, the outbreak was actually reported by the Southern Nevada Health District to the CDC in early January, according to the CDC report.

The federal report "underscores that we have obvious problems at the clinic that exposed thousands of people," said Brian Labus, a senior epidemiologist with the Nevada health district. Labus confirmed that more cases are expected to appear over time.

The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada was one of the largest gastroenterology facilities in the area. The office of the Attorney General for Nevada is investigating the Center, together with other law enforcement officials, for possible fraud.

A number of lawsuits have already been launched by those whose health have been adversely affected, or by the families of those who have died after contracting hepatitis C, allegedly at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

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