CDC confirms hepatitis C outbreak at McKay Dee, Davis Medical
(KUTV) The Center for Disease Control confirmed several cases of hepatitis C from an outbreak at McKay Dee and Davis Medical Centers.
The CDC said up to 7200 people could have been exposed to the infection. They said a healthcare provider who worked in the emergency department at both hospitals was stealing medications.
"So we don't know exactly how it happened; all we know is we have two cases that are related. And one of the cases is a healthcare provider that was working in the emergency department and fired for using medications illegally," said Dr. Angela Dunn, with the CDC.
Dunn said this is the first such outbreak of hepatitis C on record in Utah, but something similar happened in Denver, Colorado, a few years ago.
"A very similar situation. I think it was in 2009 in Denver, a nurse was identified as diverting drugs and spreading hepatitis as well," she said. The nurse had been stealing drugs and replacing them with used syringes, filled with saline.
In Utah's case, a routine blood donor turned out to be the missing link who helped connect the dots. The CDC calls him the "index patient."
The virus showed up in the index patient's routine blood screening at the blood bank.
"This person had no risk factors, so we looked into his medical history and identified his visit at the McKay Dee medical center as his only risk factor. And then having been treated by this healthcare provider who also had hepatitis C and was diverting drugs."
Hepatitis C is deadly if left untreated. However, many people don't know they have hepatitis C until they get tested.
"It's a virus that affects the liver. However, it lays dormant for up to 25 years. So people who are infected will have no symptoms for several decades."
Dunn said treatment is more effective the earlier it is started.
"Now's a really exciting time for hepatitis C treatment because we have several new treatments that are very successful. Above 95 percent successful in most patients,"
The CDC sent out letters to 7200 patients who could have been exposed to the infection during the time the nurse, 49-year-old Elet Neilson of Layton, worked at the emergency departments.
The exposure period at Davis Medical Center was from June 2011 to April 2014. The exposure period at McKay Dee Hospital was from June 2014 to November 2014.
The letters told patients they could have been exposed to the virus. If you received a letter, you have until Jan. 31 to go to either medical center for a free hepatitis C test. If infected, treatment will be free to the patient.
Of the 7200 patients who received the letter, 65 percent have not responded. They have until Jan. 31to get their free test.
If you believe you may have been exposed to hepatitis C at McKay Dee or Davis hospitals but did not receive a letter, call McKay Dee Hospital at 801-387-8580.