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Many Pennsylvanians exposed to hep C still need to be tested

As regular readers of this blog are likely aware, there is more than one way to spread hepatitis C to another person. One individual in particular has been pointed to as the culprit for spreading the disease to patients being cared for at hospitals throughout the nation, including one in Pittsburgh. The man, who worked as a traveling cardiac technologist, faced criminal charges connected to the allegations.

Many people were potentially exposed to the illness. Over the course of several years, the man worked at a total of 18 hospitals. Accordingly, those individuals were encouraged to get rested to determine whether they had contracted hepatitis C. While many people initially followed-up on this, recently, that number has dwindled.

In the state of Pennsylvania, less than half of the 2,000 individuals potentially exposed to the disease have been tested. Thus far, a total of 840 former patients have done so. At this point one individual in the state has been found to have the same strain as the man. Another 46 people in other states have received the same diagnosis.

Left untreated, hepatitis C can cause serious medical issues. One of those issues is liver disease. In the worst cases, it can lead to death.

The criminal charges the man faced are tied to the way in which the man allegedly spread the blood-borne virus. He has been accused of stealing the drug fentanyl with a syringe he then injected himself with. He then reportedly filled the infected syringe with water to replace the missing drug. The diluted drug was then apparently injected via the tainted syringes into hospital patients.

In addition to the criminal case, civil personal injury lawsuits regarding the matter have also been filed. While a successful medical malpractice lawsuit such as this one cannot restore a person’s health, it may make it easier for them to deal with their medical issues.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Correction: Hepatitis C Outbreak story,” Associated Press, July 7, 2013

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