According to the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, the recent outbreak of Hepatitis C at a Nevada clinic may be just the tip of the iceberg of cases similar to this one.
The current case is related to the Endoscopy Center of Nevada, an outpatient clinic that performs colonoscopies and other procedures. It was closed by the Nevada Board of Health on Friday following allegations, with some truth to them, that the clinic was re-using needles, syringes, and vials on multiple patients. Currently, they are trying to contact 40,000 patients that have been treated at the clinic since March of 2004.
In attempting to contact the 40,000 patients, this is the largest event of this sort ever. Dr. Julie Gerberding, the head of the CDC, feels that the country needs to be more diligent in its efforts to inform clinicians that the practice is wrong.
In response to Friday's closure, several lawsuits have already been filed and there is a hearing scheduled before the Nevada legislative committee.
State officials feel that it would be difficult to determine how many people have contracted Hepatitis C from this event. Of the 6 cases traced to the clinic, 5 of them occurred on the same day. This was determined using genetic testing.
While officials are invetigating the first clinic, there is an examination being conducted concerning a different clinic with ties to the current one. At Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center evidence has been found that shows the staff is re-using partial vials of anesthetic but so far nothing has been found concerning re-using syringes. No patients have been notified of potential risk but that decision can still be made.