A Seattle hospital has warned nearly 650 patients who have received dialysis treatments at its dialysis facility since February 2011 that inadequate screening of dialysis patients for Hepatitis B may have exposed them to the serious disease. The matter involves dialysis patients who may have received dialysis treatment in close proximity to a dialysis patient who was Hepatitis B positive. The hospital blames the small risk of Hepatitis B exposure to “a lapse” in it screening and isolation procedures in its dialysis unit, which was recently discovered during a quality assessment review at the hospital.
The breakdown in the infection prevention protocol at the hospital resulted in Hepatitis B-positive patients receiving dialysis in the communal environment of the dialysis unit instead of receiving dialysis in a private room (the Seattle hospital’s dialysis unit can simultaneously treat three dialysis patients and provided about 1,500 treatments for 262 patients in its dialysis unit in 2014).
The Seattle hospital described the situation as follows: “Virginia Mason discovered in mid-May we had been inconsistent in screening all dialysis patients for hepatitis B on admission and every 30 days. As a result, not every hepatitis B-positive patient was appropriately isolated during dialysis at Virginia Mason. The risk that other patients were exposed to hepatitis B was very low because of other infection-control safeguards and the limited ways the virus can spread from person to person. Out of an abundance of caution, we are contacting patients to inform them they may have been near a hepatitis B-positive patient in the dialysis unit.”
The Seattle hospital described its response to the lapse in its infection screening as follows: “Virginia Mason has added a feature to the electronic medical record that now automatically orders a hepatitis B screening for dialysis patients. This step ensures each patient’s hepatitis B status is current. It also alerts the care team to appropriately isolate an individual who is hepatitis B-positive during dialysis. Virginia Mason collaborated with Northwest Kidney Centers, which provides dialysis services at the medical center, to strengthen patient safety measures.”
What Is Hepatitis B?
According to the CDC, Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B is transmitted when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; or from mother to baby at birth. For some people, hepatitis B is an acute, or short-term, illness but for others, it can become a long-term, chronic infection. Risk for chronic infection is related to age at infection: approximately 90% of infected infants become chronically infected, compared with 2%–6% of adults. Chronic Hepatitis B can lead to serious health issues, like cirrhosis or liver cancer. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated.”
If you or a loved one may have been exposed to Hepatitis B or another virus or infection in a hospital in the United States, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case against the hospital and/or other(s), if appropriate.
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