State Health and Nassau County Departments Notify Patients of Possible Risk of Hepatitis C Exposure

Albany, N.Y. (November 13, 2007) - Approximately 630 patients who received injections from a physician who worked at two clinics in Nassau County have been alerted this week by letter from the state and Nassau County health departments that they should be tested for hepatitis C, hepatitis B and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infections. This notification is based on a joint investigation by the state and county health departments that confirmed transmission of hepatitis C infections between at least two of the physician's patients that was likely from the reuse of syringes in vials of medicine used on multiple patients during injections.

The investigation found that transmission did not occur from physician to patient but was the result of lapses in infection control. While the risk of transmission is very low, state and county health officials advise patients receiving letters to get tested, even if they do not feel ill. The lapses in infection control practices noted by this physician may have placed any patient receiving an injection at risk for certain viral infections. Patients who received injections from the physician at the two clinics between January 1, 2000 and January 15, 2005, are being notified by letter.

"Transmission of hepatitis in a medical setting is rare, but as a precaution we are reaching out to anyone who could have potentially been exposed," said state Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., "We are contacting all potentially exposed individuals to advise them to seek testing. If you have received a letter from us about this situation, it is important that you contact your doctor to get tested."

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is found in the blood of persons who have this disease. HCV is spread by contact with the blood of an infected person.

As of January 15, 2005, the state Health Department determined that the physician's lapses in infection control had been corrected. The doctor continues to practice. The state Health Department is not releasing the physician's name or the names of the clinics.

Investigation Background

In January 2005, two cases of hepatitis C infection were identified through routine surveillance by the Nassau County Department of Health; both cases received injections from the same physician. Investigators believe that the reuse of syringes in vials used on multiple patients caused this transmission of hepatitis C infection. Extensive review of practice records determined anyone who received an injection from this physician at either of the two clinics before January 15, 2005 and after January 1, 2000 may be at risk for hepatitis C infection. Although cases of hepatitis B or HIV infection have not been linked to this physician's techniques or these clinics; patients are recommended to also be tested for these infections.

People NOT receiving a letter and who are patients of this physician are NOT at risk as part of this notification and should consult with their health care provider if they have questions.

Physicians and other health care providers in New York must undergo mandated education periodically in proper infection control procedures. When renewing their licenses, physicians must acknowledge completing training within the past four years. Injections are very safe when standard infection control procedures are followed.

If you received a letter and may be at higher risk of transmission, please be aware that:

  • Spread of HIV through injection is uncommon, and NO HIV infections have been linked to this physician's techniques or these clinics. However, the state and county health departments are recommending HIV testing as well as hepatitis B and C testing, because HIV can be transmitted by blood.
  • Patients who have never been diagnosed with hepatitis B or C, or HIV need to be tested.
  • The state Health Department has established an information hotline for patients receiving letters, open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Please visit the Department of Health website at www.health.ny.gov for more information on hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV infection.