Rockland Psychiatric Center Notifies Patients of Possible Hepatitis B Exposure

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 15, 2011) – Patients treated at Rockland Psychiatric Center who had finger stick blood sugar testing are being advised to be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections.

The notification is based on an investigation by the New York State Department of Health in cooperation with the New York State Office of Mental Health, which operates Rockland Psychiatric Center. The investigation was initiated after a patient treated at Rockland Psychiatric Center in the summer of 2010 developed a new hepatitis B infection.

Investigators found that finger stick pens were being used on more than one patient. The pens were used to get a drop of blood for checking patients' blood sugar levels. The lancet (sharp part) of the pen with the needle was not used for more than one patient, but blood can contaminate the barrel of the device. There is a risk of spreading infections when any part of the pen is used for more than one patient.

The investigation identified another patient with chronic hepatitis B who was treated at Rockland Psychiatric Center at the same time as the newly-infected patient. Analysis performed by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta found that the analyzed portions of viruses from the two patients were identical, suggesting transmission from one patient to the other or transmission to each patient from another infected person. Both patients had received finger sticks with a shared pen while at Rockland Psychiatric Center; however, investigators could not determine with certainty that the infection was transmitted by use of a pen. Hepatitis B virus can be transmitted by blood-to-blood or blood-to-mucous membrane exposure, or by sexual contact.

Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is found in the blood of persons who have the disease. In addition to blood or sexual contact, hepatitis B can be spread to the infant when an infected mother gives birth.

Although there is no evidence that other kinds of infections were transmitted, it is standard procedure to recommend testing for infections such as hepatitis C and HIV that are spread through blood exposure when a possible transmission of hepatitis B is identified. The 229 affected patients will be notified in person or by letter, and testing will be offered by Rockland Psychiatric Center or arranged through the patients' private physicians. The New York State Department of Health provides public notification when patients are notified as a result of an investigation.

Patients with questions can call Rockland Psychiatric Center toll-free at 1-888-240-5805 during regular business hours.