Hepatitis C Community
13.4k Members
Avatar universal

Another Horrifying Contamination Possibility

By Jennifer Pifer-Bixler
CNN Senior Medical Producer

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched an investigation into whether there is a connection between improperly sterilized endoscopy equipment and a veteran's positive HIV test.

This comes after more than 10,000 veterans were possibly exposed to HIV and hepatitis at three VA facilities while undergoing colonoscopies and other procedures with equipment that had not been properly cleaned. The VA sent letters to those veterans offering free testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

"The VA prides itself on being accountable, and we are extremely concerned about this matter, and as a result we have initiated an investigation," Dr. Michael J. Kussman, the VA's undersecretary for health, said in a news release Friday. "We have an obligation to provide those who have served and sacrificed for our Nation the care they deserve."

Along with the positive HIV test, the VA says 16 other veterans have tested positive for hepatitis B and hepatitis C at two VA facilities. Of all the 17 positive text results, 11 were at the VA's Murfreesboro, Tennessee, facility, and six were from the VA's Augusta, Georgia, hospital. Thousands of other veterans are being tested at the VA hospital in Miami, and the VA says it is waiting to verify results there.

So far, 3,174 veterans have been notified of their test results. VA officials decline to say where the veteran who tested positive for HIV was treated.  Watch more on the contamination controversy »

Officials stress that the positive results don't necessarily mean the equipment is to blame. The VA is conducting an epidemiological investigation at the facilities to determine if the veterans who have tested positive for hepatitis have similar strains of the virus.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are also calling for an investigation. In a letter last month to Gen. Eric Shinseki, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, requested that the VA Office of Inspector General "begin an investigation into the potential problems of contamination; whether any patient has contracted an infection from unsterilized equipment; and, most importantly, how we can prevent such problems from happening again."

The VA says it's reviewing procedures at other facilities. So far, it says, it has encountered no additional problems. In the meantime, the VA has brought in additional personnel to help with testing and counseling in Miami, Murfreesboro and Augusta. It has also set up a toll-free number that VA patients and their families can call, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for additional information: 1-877-575-7256.

The VA says it will pay for treatment for the infected vets even if they didn't get hepatitis or HIV from the dirty equipment.

"We are making sure to take corrective measures to ensure veterans have the information and the care necessary to deal with this unacceptable development," Kussman said.

2 Responses
Avatar universal
That is scary and I wonder how many cases of "I don't know how I got HCV" came from medical procedures.
9648 tn?1290091207
Over the years? I think lots and lots. I think there's a huge liability from the medical field to patients out there and no one is talking about it. There is the obvious transfusions and gamma-globulin, but using unsterile equipment is another easy way to spread all sorts of things and my guess is that over the last forty years it has happened way too often.
Have an Answer?
Top Hepatitis Answerers
317787 tn?1473358451
683231 tn?1467323017
Auburn, WA
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Answer a few simple questions about your Hep C treatment journey.

Those who qualify may receive up to $100 for their time.
Explore More In Our Hep C Learning Center
image description
Learn about this treatable virus.
image description
Getting tested for this viral infection.
image description
3 key steps to getting on treatment.
image description
4 steps to getting on therapy.
image description
What you need to know about Hep C drugs.
image description
How the drugs might affect you.
image description
These tips may up your chances of a cure.
Popular Resources
A list of national and international resources and hotlines to help connect you to needed health and medical services.
Here’s how your baby’s growing in your body each week.
These common ADD/ADHD myths could already be hurting your child
This article will tell you more about strength training at home, giving you some options that require little to no equipment.
In You Can Prevent a Stroke, Dr. Joshua Yamamoto and Dr. Kristin Thomas help us understand what we can do to prevent a stroke.
Smoking substitute may not provide such a healthy swap, after all.