Fort Collins Coloradoan (12.30.2013)
The Fort Collins Coloradoan recently reported that Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colo., sent letters to 210 past intensive care unit (ICU) patients and associates to encourage them to get tested for hepatitis C virus (HCV) as soon as possible. The hospital currently is investigating an unnamed male employee who previously tested positive for the liver disease and is suspected of stealing intravenous pain narcotics. Those who were contacted either received intravenous painkillers while in the ICU or in connection with the ICU team between September 2, 2011, and August 28, 2012.
According to hospital officials, the risk of infection is very low and they have received no reports of HCV infection among patients. “We want patients to be assured at this time there are no reported cases of patients acquiring hepatitis C and no evidence of harm to patients, but we want to make sure they are absolutely safe and encourage them to get tested,” said Ric Detlefsen, director of quality at Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies.
Officials learned that the employee, who has since been fired, had HCV but was clear of the disease after August 28, 2012. The hospital learned the employee had been stealing unused drugs from patients, although they have not said how often the theft took place or how much the former employee stole.
HCV is a contagious liver disease with symptoms and effects that range from mild to severe and can be fatal. More than 3.2 million people in the United States have the disease, including 85,000 Coloradans. According to CDC, the majority of infected people have no symptoms, which is why hospital officials are strongly encouraging people to get tested. Test results can be available the same day and several effective treatments are available.