State Health Department, Nassau Hospital Notify Patients Of Possible Hepatitis C Exposure

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 7, 2011) – Four patients treated at South Nassau Communities Hospital Pain Management Center will receive letters this week advising them to be tested for hepatitis C, hepatitis B and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections.

The notification is based on an investigation by the New York State Department of Health with the full cooperation of South Nassau Communities Hospital. The investigation was initiated after a patient treated at the Pain Management Center in May 2010 developed a new hepatitis C infection.

The investigation yielded no evidence linking the patient's infection to the Pain Management Center; however, investigators found that a patient who was treated earlier on the same day had chronic hepatitis C infection. It could not be determined whether the infection was transmitted from one patient to the other or whether the finding was a coincidence. It is estimated that about 1.3 percent of the U.S. population is infected with hepatitis C.

While the chance is low that any additional patients are at risk of infection, four patients treated that same day are being notified out of an abundance of caution. It is standard procedure to recommend testing for other infections that are spread in similar ways, such as hepatitis B and HIV, when a possible transmission of hepatitis C is identified. The New York State Department of Health provides public notification when any patients are notified as a result of an investigation.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus, which is found in the blood of persons who have this disease. Hepatitis C is usually spread by contact with the blood of an infected person, such as by sharing needles or other injection equipment.

Patients with questions can call the state Department of Health toll-free at 1-888-636-1551 during regular business hours.