Two Utah hospitals have notified thousands of patients that they may have been exposed to hepatitis C virus linked to an infected nurse with a history of drug diversion.
Health officials have urged some 7,200 patients at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden and Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton to get tested for HCV. The followup of former patients began after a patient and a former nurse tested positive for the same HCV strain.
The nurse lost her medical license in December 2014 after admitting to stealing medication from her employer, according to published reports. She was fired from McKay-Dee in 2014 after the hospital found evidence she had stolen morphine and dilaudid. Authorities expanded the investigation to include patients at Davis Hospital and Medical Center after they learned the nurse was caught diverting IV Benadryl while employed there in 2012 and 2013.
McKay-Dee recently sent letters to nearly 4,800 patients informing them that they may have been exposed to HCV between June 17, 2013 and Nov. 25, 2014. Davis Hospital and Medical Center sent letters to nearly 2,400 patients informing them that they may also have been exposed to HCV between June 17, 2011 and April 11, 2013.
There are reports of more HCV infections being identified beyond the nurse and the index case, but the state health department did not start updating the tally until the offer of free HCV testing to all contacted patients ended on Jan. 31.
There have been recurrent outbreaks of HCV traced back to addicted healthcare workers stealing opioids and other medications. They may contaminate solutions in doing so, sometimes trying to cover their tracks by replacing pain medication with saline. As a result, cross transmission among patients may occur or the worker may be the HCV source, if infected. The latter appears to be the case at Utah hospitals, where the infected nurse worked in the emergency departments of both facilities.
The investigation began when a blood donor with no reported risk factors for HCV tested positive for the virus. Public health investigators found he had previously been a patient at McKay-Dee medical center and was treated by the nurse in question.