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September 03, 2012
State opens hepatitis C inquiry as number of cases increases

The New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) is expanding testing recommendations related to the outbreak of hepatitis C at Exeter Hospital. A technologist has been accused of stealing drugs and contaminating syringes later used on patients. To date, 32 former patients at the facility have been diagnosed.

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The DPHS has recently asked that anyone who was a patient in the hospital’s operating rooms and intensive care unit between April 1, 2011, and May 25, 2012, be tested for possible exposure to hepatitis C. The DPHS is offering free testing clinics.

As yet unresolved is the issue of employee testing. According to a report on seacoastonline.com, the DPHS has recommended it “despite the hospital’s initial refusal to comply.”

“As part of our investigation we have uncovered additional information that has indicated the suspect, while working in the hospital’s Cardiac Catheterization Lab, may also have accessed these other areas of the hospital,” said Public Health Director Dr. Jose Montero in a DPHS press release. He believes the risk of exposure is low for the approximately 6,000 people involved.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are urging that Exeter Hospital, rather than taxpayers, assume the considerable cost of testing and other expenses related to the outbreak.     Those with questions about hepatitis C can call the DPHS Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at 603-271-4496.

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