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Reuters Health Information (2009-03-05): Hepatitis C outbreak reported at New York dialysis center

Public Health

Hepatitis C outbreak reported at New York dialysis center

Last Updated: 2009-03-05 15:44:10 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - From 1999 through 2008, nine patients treated at a hemodialysis unit in New York City were found to be infected with hepatitis C virus, according to findings published Thursday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The cases illustrate how hepatitis C virus and other pathogens can be transmitted in healthcare settings when infection control procedures are not followed, Dr. R. Hallack, from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), and colleagues note.

The release of the report coincides with National Kidney Month in the US and World Kidney Day on March 12.

For four of the cases, patient-to-patient transmission of hepatitis C virus was documented. Two of the patients were infected from two patients with chronic infection, while a patient with incident infection was found to be the source for the fourth patient. For the remaining five patients, no source was identified.

Contaminated healthcare worker hands and treatment surfaces were among the breaches in infection control protocol identified at the hemodialysis unit, which was shut down in August 2008 after the NYSDOH ordered the unit to transfer all patients to other facilities.

The current hepatitis outbreak is just one of several that have occurred recently in healthcare settings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends routine screening for pathogens at hemodialysis centers to rapidly identify and stop potential transmission.

For their part, patients should ask their providers if they have been tested for infection with hepatitis C virus, the CDC adds. Concerns about infection should be discussed with their provider.

"This outbreak," the authors conclude, "highlights the need for hemodialysis units to adhere to recommendations for infection control and comprehensive HCV surveillance, including routine anti-HCV screening, confirmatory testing of anti-HCV seroconversions, assessment of the adequacy of infection control practices in the setting of documented HCV seroconversion, and prompt reporting to the local health department as required by reportable disease laws or regulations."

Mor Mortal Wkly Rep CDC Surveill Summ 2009;58:189-194.

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