While state health officials continue to investigate the nature and causes of the state’s first hospital-related hepatitis C outbreak, those who used the cardiac catheterization lab since August 2011 have been asked to submit to a hepatitis C exam in order to rule out infection. Officials estimate more than 600 people may have been affected by the virus. So far, four people have contracted hepatitis C and all of those cases have been traced back to the Exeter hospital cardiac catheterization lab.
Here’s the timeline of events thus far:
-Monday, May 14: Exeter Hospital begins formally investigating three cases of Hepatitis C that have a possible connection to the hospital. Later in the day, a fourth case is linked to the same cluster.
-Tuesday May 15: Exeter Hospital formally notifies the state of four cases of Hepatitis C with a possible connection to the facility.
-Wednesday, May 16: State public health officials inform the hospital they are launching a formal investigation into the Hepatitis C infections.
-Thursday, May 17: State health officials arrive at the hospital and begin testing the Hepatitis C virus afflicting the four patients.
-Monday, May 28: Testing is completed on the samples collected from the fourth patient. It’s a genetic match, suggesting all four patients share a common source of infection.
-Tuesday, May 29: The hospital begins testing all staff and physicians who had any potential connection with the catheterization unit during the likely period of infection.
-Thursday, May 31: The hospital begins contacting all patients treated in the lab and its recovery area between August 1, 2011 and May 25, 2012, the date operations were suspended.
The hospital and state health officials schedule a press conference to inform the public about the situation, which they describe as “evolving.”
Hospital officials say all affected patients will be contacted by phone before the end of the day, and will also receive a letter encouraging them to undergo voluntary Hepatitis C testing. The hospital begins offering tests at special clinics hosted on the main campus at Exeter Health Care. All specimen processing will be done by the state, and all positive test results will be reported back to the individuals’ primary care physicians.
The state lab will test all positive results to find any cases that match the genetic footprint of the virus found in the four patients. By Thursday, 28 staff members have been tested.
Anyone who thinks they may be affected should call Exeter Hospital at 603-580-6124 to schedule a blood test.