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650 Dialysis Patients Possibly Exposed To Hepatitis B At Seattle Hospital

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At least 650 dialysis patients might have been exposed to Hepatitis B, a Seattle hospital states, because of negligence in screening procedures.

However, the Virginia Mason Hospital and Medical Center and King County public health authorities did clarify and assure the public that the risk of transmission is low, reports Fox News.

Virginia Mason Hospital alerted health authorities that staff had been inconsistent in screening and isolating dialysis patients – something recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The hospital says this is because of the undiagnosed and unknown hepatitis status of some of the dialysis patients.

The hospital sent letters to the 650 patients who had been treated at their dialysis unit and has urged anyone who has hemodialysis in the last five years to get tested for Hepatitis B immediately. So far, no cases of Hepatitis B have been identified yet.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that is transmitted through contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person. The virus attacks the liver, possibly causing both accute and chronic liver failure. Over 780,000 people die annually due to complications from Hepatitis B, incluing cirrhosis and liver cancer. The disease is more prevalent in East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, prevalent in only 0.3% of Americans. Fortunately, the virus can be prevented with safe and effective vaccines.

Dr. Cyrus Cryst, Nephrology Section head, wrote,

If you are a regular dialysis patient, your dialysis unit is likely routinely testing you for hepatitis B according to guidelines. Check with your dialysis provider to be sure you have been tested. If you are immune to hepatitis B, there is nothing more to do with respect to this notice.

Dr. Jeff Duchin of Seattle and King County Public Health says that officials from the agency investigated the hospital’s procedures, such as disinfecting equipment and other means of preventing infections. He said that there has been no evidence found of an increased risk in acquiring blood-transmitted infections In Virginia Mason’s dialysis unit. The hospital had been assessed to have followed proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures, use or personal protective equipment and appropriate hygiene.

Virginia Mason has referred to a new feature in the screening process where electronic medical records automatically put in an order for Hepatitis B screening in dialysis patients, and informs health care workers if isolation is necessary.

The nonprofit organization Northwest Kidney Centers is providing the dialysis at the hospital. Patients with questions or concerns can get in touch with Virginia Mason Hospital at 1-877-255-3793.

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