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650 Dialysis Patients at Risk for Hepatitis B Following Screening Inconsistencies

Lilly Lentz6 months ago

According to NHVoice, 650 dialysis patients have become at risk of contracting hepatitis B as a result of inconsistent screening at a Seattle hospital.

NHVoice and the Health Concern

Over the course of the last five years, patients that have been treated in the dialysis unit at Virginia Mason Hospital are at a higher risk for blood infection. This is due to the fact that lapses in hepatitis B screening procedures have been discovered. According to the hospital, patients that have been treated in the dialysis unit since 2011 are highly advised to get tested for the hepatitis B infection.

A nonprofit organization, Joint Commission, conducted a survey that sanctions thousands of health care organizations and programs in the United States. Joint Commission alerted the hospital of their screening inconsistencies, which promoted an investigation. Virginia Mason Hospital responded by notifying public health officials of the screening lapses that were found.

At least 650 dialysis patients could potentially be affected by this severe lapse in medical treatment. The patients at risk have been exposed to the hepatitis B infection, which can cause serious liver infection. Whether the patients who contracted hepatitis B were treated in the three-bed dialysis unit of the hospital is still unknown, according to Virginia Mason Hospital officials. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises those who are hepatitis B positive to prefer a private room when receiving treatment.

According to public health officials, the chance of people contracting the infection through transmission is low.  With that, according to Dr. Cyrus Cryst, the nephrology unit head at Virginia Mason Hospital, there are very low risks of exposure to hepatitis B by way of other infection-control safeguards. During a news conference, Cryst addresses that the potential exposure of the hospital’s patients arises from lapses in protocols and inconsistencies in screening procedures; however, Cryst assured that officials have already worked to address the issues.

Outbreak News Today published a report that informed, “The individuals are being informed of this situation and encouraged to contact their health care provider to determine their hepatitis B status or need for further screening. Virginia Mason is offering to assist in the screening process, if needed.”

Overview of Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B-related complications take the lives of about 800,000 people annually. The CDC insists that the only way to control the condition is to get yourself vaccinated. According to a report in Tech Times by Rhodi Lee, “Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can spread through contact with body fluids such as semen and blood of infected individuals via sexual contact and sharing of medical equipment. The virus attacks the liver, potentially causing acute and chronic liver failure.”

Hepatitis B is a blood-borne virus. It ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting only a few weeks, up to a chronic liver condition. The prevalence of hepatitis B has recently declined and is now seen in approximately one percent of dialysis patients in the United States.

In response to the recent issue, Virginia Mason has added to the electronic medical record system a feature that automatically orders a hepatitis B screening for dialysis patients. This has been put into place to ensure that each patient’s hepatitis B status is current and correct. It also sends an alert to the hospital’s care team to isolate individuals who are hepatitis B-positive.

Hepatitis B Statistics

According to the Hepatitis B Foundation:

  • 90% of healthy adults who are infected by hepatitis B will recover and develop protective antibodies against future hepatitis B infections.
  • More than 240 million people worldwide are already chronically infected by the disease.
  • 2 billion people have been infected worldwide by the hepatitis B infection.
  • 10-30 million people worldwide will become infected each year.
  • Up to 1 million people die each year from hepatitis B and its complications, such as liver cancer.
  • Approximately 2 people die each minute worldwide from hepatitis B related complications.
  • 12 million Americans have been infected by hepatitis B.
  • Up to 2 million Americans are chronically infected by hepatitis B.
  • Up to 40,000 people in the United States will become newly infected each year.
  • Thousands of people in the United States will die each year from hepatitis B and its complications.

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