Approximately 7,200 patients at Mckay-Dee Hospital and Davis Hospital, in Ogden and Layton, are believed to have been exposed to a rare strain of hepatitis C due to the actions of a lone nurse.
Free testing is being offered to those affected, but this will stop at the end of January. Only 35% of the affected patients have reported for testing as of this writing, and health officials are hoping more will step forward. Since the symptoms of hepatitis C can lay dormant for several decades before appearing, even those who feel healthy should get tested.
Back in September of 2015, McKay-Dee Hospital became aware of a patient who had contracted the “2b” strain of hepatitis C, the same type and strain that nurse Elet Neilson, who had been fired a year prior, also had. Due to the rarity of the strain, a link was suspected between the two cases. Neilson had been fired after it was discovered she was diverting injectable medications for her personal use, which suggested a possible avenue of exposure. Further investigation found that Neilson had been involved with 4,800 patients at McKay-Dee and another 2,400 at Davis, where she also worked.
All affected patients were contacted and urged to seek testing. Although only 35% have reported so far, Utah health officials have confirmed that some tested positive for the disease but will not say how many.
We recently reported on why hepatitis C is considered a silent killer. For one, many people who are infected with Hepatitis C don’t even know that they have it—so they are unlikely to see treatment. Some people might have Hepatitis C for years and not experience symptoms, only to eventually become deathly ill.
Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver that can take either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) form. Patients with acute cases typically start showing symptoms almost two months after exposure and will experience nausea, stomach pain, dark-colored urine or clay-colored stool, fever, muscle and joint pains, and yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice). Chronic cases can lay dormant—but still contagious—for decades before symptoms appear. As a blood borne disease, hepatitis C is primarily transmitted through contaminated needles or similar equipment, pregnancy (from mother to child), and in rare cases through intercourse.
A doctor will determine the best form of treatment—but the only way to treat hepatitis C is with prescription pharmaceuticals.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Hepatitis C Investigation Information,” Utah Department of Health web site, http://health.utah.gov/epi/diseases/hepatitisC/investigation, last accessed January 11, 2016.