Reuse of Syringes at Nev. Clinic Triggers Health Alarm

Practice may have spread hepatitis, HIV
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2008 4:05 AM CST
Michael Washington, 67, talks about living with hepatitis C during an interview with the Associated Press at Edward Bernstein & Associates law offices Tuesday, March 4, 2008, in Las Vegas. Washington...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Six people with serious cases of hepatitis are just the beginning of what's expected to be a major health problem after a Las Vegas clinic gambled with the lives of tens of thousands of patients by reusing syringes, reports AP. The practice may have exposed patients to HIV and could be responsible for an outbreak of hepatitis C. The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada is now the focus of the biggest public health notification operation in US history with nearly 40,000 patients contacted.

One sickened man called his case of acute hepatitis C a "creeping death sentence" contracted during a routine colon exam at the clinic. "I find it baffling, frankly, that in this day and age anyone would think it was safe to reuse a syringe," said a spokesman at the federal Centers for Disease Control. Anyone treated at the clinic between March 2004 and January 2008 should be screened for HIV and hepatitis B and C, warned public health officials.