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Nearly 650 Patients Treated at Virginia Mason's Dialysis Unit Could Have Low Risk of Hepatitis B Exposure

Jun 21, 2016 12:21 AM EDT
Virginia Mason Hospital alerts patients who were treated in their dialysis unit for possible low risk exposure to hepatitis B. (Photo : By Visitor7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle is alerting nearly 650 patients who were treated in their dialysis since February 2011 due to possible low risk of Hepatitis B exposure to get tested for the infection.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we are informing patients of the situation, explaining there was a minimal risk of exposure for them and letting them know we are a ready resource for any questions they have. Patient safety is always our top priority," explained Cyrus Cryst, MD, section head, Nephrology, in a statement.

The alert was issued after a survey by a Joint Commission on May 20 and May 27, revealing that the hospital failed to address all requirements, receiving a contingent accreditation. The survey found that the staff of Virginia Mason may have not been consistently screening patients for Hepatitis B before undergoing dialysis, as recommended by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Hepatitis B is a highly contagious virus that can transmit through blood, semen or other bodily fluids. Aside from sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes or other drug-injection equipment, the virus can also linger on environmental surfaces without any visible signs of contamination.

CDC recommends a hepatitis B screening before dialysis. If the patient is positive, he will be treated in a private room, away from other patients.

According to the report from Seattle Times, Public Health's investigators did not find any sign of increased risk in acquiring blood-borne pathogens in the dialysis unit of the hospital. Virginia Mason's preventive measures against infection, including disinfection, cleaning and use of protective equipment by staff may have helped reduce the risk of Hepatitis B exposure.

Virginia Mason is urging patients who were treated in their dialysis unit for the past five years to get tested for hepatitis B. the hospital is also offering assistance for the screening tests.

In the United States, CDC estimated that there are about 850,000 to 2.2 million people living with chronic hepatitis B, with 19,200 reported new cases of acute hepatitis B, in 2014.

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