OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 News) – A warning coming from the Utah Department of Health and McKay-Dee Hospital after concerns that an employee may have exposed close to 5,000 patients to the virus.
It was the hospital’s, drug monitoring system that first alerted them to a problem. In November, 2014, an employee with Hepatitis C was found to be diverting medications. That employee was identified, questioned, and terminated by the hospital.
“The system worked like it should’ve. It picked up the behavior that it’s looking for and McKay-Dee acted fast to remedy the situation,” said Utah Department of Health spokesperson, Tom Hudachko.
There are three types of Hepatitis: A, B, and C. Underneath each type are several genotypes. Under Hepatitis C are six. The most common in the United States are genotypes 1a and 1b, making about 80% of cases. In September, 2015, McKay-Dee received information about a patient having the genotype 2b. Raising concerns for the hospital because the employee who had been terminated a year prior also had the same strain. Because this genotype is rare, about 10% of Hepatitis cases, health officials believe the patient and the employee are linked.
“With the cases associated with McKay-Dee Hospital, these are the types 2b, which is more rare, only about 10% or so of the cases in the U.S. are types 2b. So, that’s why we feel comfortable being able to say the 2 cases are linked to one another,” says Hudachko.
The hospital joined with the Department of Health to collect a list of patients. Close, to 5,000 who may have been exposed from June, 2013, to November, 2014.
In response to the circumstances, McKay-Dee released the following statement:
“McKay-Dee Hospital has been working with the Utah Department of Health to investigate a recent Hepatitis C infection of a patient who received treatment in the Emergency Department at the hospital. Through this investigation, McKay-Dee Hospital and the Utah Department of Health have learned that some of the patients treated in the McKay-Dee Hospital Emergency Department between June 2013 and November 2014, may have been exposed to Hepatitis C genotype 2b. For those that might be at risk, McKay-Dee Hospital has notified each patient by mail. We have also notified physicians that some of their patients may receive this letter. Most patients receiving care in the Emergency Department during that time period are not at risk for having contracted Hepatitis C.
While the chance of contracting Hepatitis C is low, the hospital is providing a free blood test to those notified. McKay-Dee Hospital is very committed to offering effective, compassionate and safe care to our patients and continues to work with the Utah Department of Health on specifics to understand all aspects of this situation.”
Letters were sent out to those patients with instructions on where to go to receive a free blood test to rule out the possibility of exposure.
“It’s important for people to realize how Hepatitis C is transmitted from person-to-person, and Hepatitis C is only transmitted from person-to-person through contact with infected blood.
Hudachko says the virus is not new. About 3.5 million people in the United States are living with Hepatitis. Symptoms from Hepatitis include abdominal cramps, nausea, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and/or eyes), and a fever. He mentions that 70-80% of all acute patients never experience symptoms, and those who do, don’t see symptoms until 6-7 weeks after exposure. In chronic patients, they may not even see symptoms for 25 years after exposure. Which is why health officials are encouraging those people who received a letter to take advantage of the free testing.
If you have any questions you can contact the McKay-Dee Hospital hotline at 801-387-8580