Entries in Hepatitis C (11)


Hepatitis C Screenings for Baby Boomers Receive Lukewarm Support

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued new recommendations for Baby Boomers: whether at risk or not, everyone should get tested for Hepatitis C.

Now, an influential advisory board is offering only half-hearted support for the protocol.  In a draft opinion issued Tuesday, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) advises doctors to “consider offering screening” for Hepatitis C for adults born between 1945 and 1965.

The recommendation is labeled “Grade C,” which the USPSTF’s website deems “only a small benefit” for people without prior symptoms.  It did extend a “Grade B” recommendation for screenings high-risk adults, such as those with a history with intravenous drugs.

The USPSTF is made up of outside experts appointed by the government, and is widely considered more influential than the CDC.  As a result of the low-grade recommendation, insurance carriers might not cover the one-time hepatitis screenings.

The National Virus Hepatitis Roundtable immediately called for a revision to the USPSTF’s draft opinion.  “Doctors look to USPSTF to guide clinical practice and A and B recommendations get covered without cost-sharing to patients,” said Executive Director Martha Saly.  “This is not going to be the case with a C recommendation and will result in many people not being tested.”

According to the CDC, Baby Boomers born between 1945 and 1965 are five times more likely to be infected with Hepatitis C than the average adult.  Infected adults can live with the virus for decades before showing symptoms, leaving many people unaware they are living with the liver disease.

Copywright 2012 ABC News Radio


Canceled Hepatitis C Tests Flame 'Serial Infector' Fears

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EXETER, N.H.) -- Testing of more than 3,000 people who may have been infected with hepatitis C at a New Hampshire by an alleged "serial infector" was canceled this weekend, leaving some former patients scared and angry.

Health officials cancelled the weekend testing clinic, even though they asked the former patients at Exeter Hospital to get tested, because they said the logistics were too much.

David Kwiatkowski, a former lab technician at Exeter Hospital, was indicted last week for allegedly infecting 31 people with hepatitis C at that hospital, but might have infected thousands of patients in at least 13 hospitals where he has worked.

Kwiatkowski had allegedly been stealing syringes of the anesthetic Fentanyl intended for patients, injecting his own arm and then refilling those empty syringes with another liquid-like saline, according to a statement from the United States Attorney's Office in New Hampshire.

Since Kwiatkowski tested positive for hepatitis C in June 2010, he passed it on to the hospital patients who were injected with his used, saline-filled syringes, according to the affidavit.

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"If he knew that he was infected and he put those needles back on the shelf, that is the definition of evil," Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor, told Good Morning America. "Anyone who was in those hospitals when he was working there is potentially at risk. We're talking tens of thousands of people."

Kwiatskowski, 32, was a temporary employee at Exeter Hospital who has worked in at least eight hospitals in 13 states, Besser said.

Exeter Hospital issued a press release this week, indicating that the state Department of Health and Human Services and its Division of Public Health Services have decided to expand hepatitis C testing to anyone who was a patient in one of the hospital operating rooms or the intensive care unit. Government health officials are urging about 6,000 patients to get tested in Exeter Hospital alone, according to the release.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Why Baby Boomers Need Hepatitis C, HIV Testing

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Researchers took aim at baby boomers on Wednesday, urging this group of Americans to get tested for hepatitis C and HIV -- or possibly face liver failure.

Scientists at the AIDS 2012 conference in Washington, D.C., revealed data showing that those infected with HIV and hepatitis C are at very high risk for liver failure.  But hepatitis C infection is often a silent illness, as it can often go undetected since some patients experience little to no symptoms.

Health officials believe hundreds of thousands of new hepatitis C infections occurred annually between the 1970s and 1980s, most of them in the younger adults of the era -- the generation born from 1945 through 1965, known as the baby boomers.  The hepatitis C virus was not identified until 1989.

The new data follows recommendations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in May urging that all baby boomers should be tested for hepatitis C.

As more effective treatments for hepatitis C have become available, it is important to identify patients with the virus so that complications such as liver failure and liver cancer can be prevented.  New medications on the market promise shorter treatment periods and fewer side effects for patients.

Dr. Victor Lo Re, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, presented data that revealed even HIV patients who are treated for HIV with anti-retrovirals are at higher risk than other patients for liver failure.

“Everyone who is at risk should be tested for both hepatitis C and HIV,” he said.

Testing of baby boomers for hepatitis C could lead to 800,000 more boomers getting treatment and could possibly save more than 120,000 lives.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Thousands May Need Hepatitis C Test After New Hampshire Hospital Outbreak

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EXETER, N.H.) -- Thousands of hospital patients in New Hampshire may need to be tested for Hepatitis C now that a man has been accused of infecting several with his strain of the virus.

Federal prosecutors say medical technician David Kwiatowski at New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital used syringes to inject himself with painkillers, then used the same dirty needles to inject patients with saline instead of their prescribed medication. 

Kwiatkowski, 32, was arrested and charged with acquiring a controlled substance by fraud and tampering with a consumer product with reckless disregard for the risk of others, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.

"The evidence gathered to date points irrefutably to Kwiatkowski as the source of the Hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital," U.S. attorney John P. Kacavas said in a press release. "With his arrest, we have eliminated the 'serial infector' posed to public and health safety."

Since Kwiatkowski tested positive for Hepatitis C in June 2010, he passed it on to the hospital patients, according to the affidavit. Thirty-one patients in the facility's cardiac catheterization lab have now been diagnosed with the same strain of Hepatitis C as Kwiatowski.  

Exeter Hospital employees discovered the outbreak in May 2012, prompting an investigation that spanned several local, state and federal government agencies, including the FBI, according to court documents obtained by ABC News.

Now as patients file a class action lawsuit, prosecutors say there may be an untold number of cases in eight states were Kwiatowski worked as a traveling medical technician.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Hampshire Hospital Facing Legal Action over Hepatitis C Outbreak

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EXETER, N.H.) -- New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital faces dozens of lawsuits over an outbreak of hepatitis C that has been linked to its cardiac catheterization lab.

The New Hampshire Department of Health announced Monday that, so far, 27 people had contracted the disease while in the cardiac catheterization lab. Of the 27 cases, one was a hospital employee. An additional 12 people tested positive for the hepatitis C virus but had a strain different from the one tied to the outbreak.

Foster's Daily Democrat reported that 59 patients had filed suit against the hospital -- 47 in a class action and another 12 individually.

Cases were first reported in May, and in June, state health officials said the outbreak was most likely the result of drug diversion by a hospital employee. Drug diversion, the misuse of prescription drugs for nonmedicinal purposes, has become a major problem among health care workers, who may use narcotics prescribed for patients and then pass on diseases through contaminated syringes. State officials are still investigating whether the employee was the source of the outbreak.

Hepatitis C is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver and can lead to chronic infection.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 13 health care-associated hepatitis C outbreaks between 2008 and 2011. More than 100 people were infected during those outbreaks. Two of the outbreaks -- one in 2009 in Colorado and another in 2010 in Florida -- involved drug diversion by health care staff.

The hospital said in a news release that it had contacted patients who were treated in the cardiac catheterization lab or the recovery room between Oct. 1, 2010, and May 25, 2012, urging them to get tested for hepatitis C.

The health department said testing on individuals who may have been exposed to the virus is almost complete.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


CDC Recommends Baby Boomers Get Tested for Hepatitis C

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that baby boomers--Americans born between 1945 and 1965-- get tested for Hepatitis C, Health Day reports.

The agency said that most cases of the disease occur in this age group, and most were infected with it during their teens and 20s, and don't know they are infected. Baby boomers reportedly have a rate of infection five times higher than others because the cause of hepatitis C was only discovered in 1989, years after they were young adults.

In 2007, 15,000 people died from the virus, according to CDC data.

If hepatitis C is not detected and treated, it could potentially cause cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.

The number of new hepatitis C infections has declined from several hundred thousand per year to around 17,000, which is attributed to public education and improved infection control in hospitals.

The CDC said it's thought that 800,000 people living with hepatitis C could be identified and over 120,000 hepatitis C-related deaths prevented by targeting baby boomers, according to Health Day.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fresno's Illegal Needle Exchange Program Booms Despite Law

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(FRESNO, Calif.) -- For 15 years, Dr. Marc Lasher has been hitting the streets of Fresno, Calif., on Saturday mornings in a school bus-turned-medical clinic, collecting used syringes and handing out sterile ones to addicts who need them.

And that's only a piece of it.  Lasher and his volunteer staff also provide basic medical care to addicts who visit the bus, and give out referral information for detox and treatment centers in the area.

"Addicts have a very unique set of problems, and need a lot of medical care," said Lasher, who is an addiction specialist and medical director of Aegis methadone clinic.  "We act as a portal to the health care system for a population that has fallen off the edge of the world."

Prejudice and shame dissuade many addicts from receiving standard care, Lasher said, and his belief in providing compassionate and respectful care while attempting to curb the transmission of deadly bloodborne illnesses, including HIV and hepatitis C, is enough to keep his mission going, despite the roadblocks that he has experienced in recent days.

While the program is technically illegal because it provides drug paraphernalia to the public, three years ago, Lasher and his crew struck a deal with Fresno government officials that allowed the needle exchange program to receive immunity from drug paraphernalia laws and provide care to addicts who needed it.

They have been able to provide care to addicts largely unbothered by police or government, but two weeks ago, the city officials withdrew their support of the traveling medical clinic.

"It's a philosophical question whether to give someone the tools to continue an illegal behavior," board supervisor Judy Case told the Fresno Bee.  "I just think providing needles to addicts is enabling."

Fresno has one of the largest injection drug user populations in the country, Lasher said, and the moral dilemma should not have a place in a decision to prevent HIV and hepatitis C.

"People are dying of HIV and hep C all the time," said Lasher.  "We can prevent that from happening.  We need to get the morals out of the way and present real health solutions and care about what's happening to these people."

Lasher is now seeking to override city government entirely.  Two new bills were presented to California Gov. Jerry Brown's office, and Brown has until Oct. 9 to sign or veto the bills, one of which would allow pharmacists and other medical personnel to hand out a limited amount of syringes without prescription.  The other would allow the California Department of Health to administer needle exchange programs when there is a potential public health risk, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Clinic Warns Patients of Possible Blood Illness Exposure

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MADISON, Wis.) -- A Madison, Wis., clinic is contacting 2,345 of its diabetic patients to determine whether a nurse may have exposed them to blood-borne illnesses, including HIV and hepatitis B and C, over the past five years.

"An internal review found that a former Dean Clinic employee was inappropriately using these devices during some patient visits between 2006 and 2011," the clinic said in a statement.

In teaching patients how to administer finger sticks and insulin shots to themselves, the nurse changed the needle with each patient but reused the rest of the device, which could put patients at a slight risk of blood transfer from one person to another. The practice devices she used were not even intended to be tried on people, the hospital said.

"That demonstration pen is intended to be used not on people but rather into an inanimate object, such as a pillow or an orange," Dr. Mark Kaufman, Dean's chief medical officer, told ABC affiliate WKOW.

The clinic, which is part of a larger medical system in southern Wisconsin, reported that each patient who received insulin training by this nurse would receive a phone call or letter explaining the wrongdoing. The hospital said it would provide the necessary blood tests, follow-up care and support free of charge.

"Our goal is to ensure that those who may have been affected by the inappropriate use are promptly informed, tested and supported," Dr. Craig Samitt, president and CEO of Dean Clinic, said in the hospital's statement.

Administrators plan to re-educate staff on the proper use of the devices, and to change the way clinical staff is monitored.

"This is not going to herald a huge increase in communicable diseases in this population, but most will suffer more from the anxiety associated with the possibility of exposure after hearing from the clinic," said Dr. Richard Cook, associate professor of anesthesia and critical care at University of Chicago.

"I don't believe this nurse was cognizant of the possibility that the device was a potential source of infection, but we know, of course, that you have to treat these entire device systems as contaminated after they are used," Cook said.

While the risk of infection appears small, Dr. Peter Pronovost, director of John Hopkins' Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, said the hospital should be commended for handling the scandal in a "very forthright and appropriate" manner, and emphasized that safety policies cannot stop at the top.

Clinicians, he said, must understand guidelines at a practical level, and policymakers need to make sure that rules are clear, unambiguous and can be carried out by all.

Device manufacturers, Pronovost said, need to be more of aware of "real world usability" when creating products and enclose specific, practical instructions on how to use the device safely.

"The company could literally put in bold letters, 'Do not use on more than one person,'" Pronovost said. Or in this case, do not use on people at all. "Companies can sometimes figure out ways so that it is physically impossible to make a fatal mistake with their products. They can test where humans can get it wrong. Humans are fallible."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA Approves New Drug for Hepatitis C, Incivek

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Monday approved a new drug that researchers say can help clear out the Hepatitis C virus faster.

The FDA approved Incivek after three clinical trials sponsored by the drug's maker, Vertex Pharmaceuticals.  The trials showed that a higher percentage (79 percent) of patients saw improvement with Incivek vs. using the older drugs alone.  The FDA also reported that Incevek appeared to cut treatment time in half, from 48 weeks to 24 weeks.

Incivek's approval comes just after the FDA gave the go-ahead for Victrelis, another drug in the same class.  Now, Dr. Edward Cox, a director at the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says the approval of both drugs offer a "greater chance at a cure" for Hepatitis C patients.

Side effects of both Incivek and Victrelis include anemia, nausea and headaches, according to the FDA.  However, experts have high expectations for the new treatments.

"Both patients and physicians are really excited about the approval of this drug, which represents a huge advance in the treatment of hepatitis C," Dr. Douglas Dieterich of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City told HealthDay News.  "It is expected to almost double the cure rate of this disease."

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver that affects more than three million Americans and is responsible for the majority of liver transplants performed in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  It can be spread by sharing needles, toothbrushes or razors with an infected individual, or by sexual contact.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


CDC: New Hepatitis C Infections Remain Stable

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GALVESTON, Texas) - New figures from the Centers for Disease Control suggest that new cases of the hepatitis C virus have remained stable since dropping dramatically in the early 1990s, reports WebMD.

Researchers attributed the dramatic drop in infections and the resulting stabilization to a decline in the use of needles by illicit drug users. Illicit IV drug use is now the most common cause of new HCV  infections.

“New IV drug users are still being infected in high numbers, but they represent a very small percentage of the pool of people who are infected,” researcher Miriam J. Alter, PhD, of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, told WebMD.

Among other findings, researchers found that there was little evidence that tattoos and similar practices were responsible for major contributions to the number of HCV infections. A sizable portion -- 14 percent of new HCV infections -- occurred in people who admitted to having sex with an infected partner or multiple partners.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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