People in West Virginia who went in for a cardiac stress test got a letter recently that may cause them stress.
The state health department told patients of the Raleigh Heart Clinic in Beckley, West Virginia, who had the stress test between March 1, 2012, and March 27, 2015, that they might want to get tested for hepatitis C, B and HIV.
That’s because an investigation by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered several people had unexpected cases of viral hepatitis in the state. What the patients had in common is that each had a stress test performed at the clinic.
The health department said eight patients are now infected with hepatitis C and four more patients are infected with hepatitis B. All those patients got injections during the tests, and the investigators think that may have been what spread the infection.
So far there is no evidence that anyone has been infected with HIV, according to the health department, but that virus can spread the same way the hepatitis viruses do, so the department suggested patients get tested for HIV as well.
“As a result of the investigation, it was necessary to notify patients of the clinics that may have been exposed to infectious disease,” an emailed statement from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said. “The physician has been cooperative and participated in the notification process.”
Between 2008 and 2014, there have been 44 outbreaks of viral hepatitis related to health care services that the CDC knows about. The agency said it believes “only a fraction of such outbreaks that occurred have been detected,” since there is a long incubation period of up to six months before someone may know they have become infected. For people who do have hepatitis C and B symptoms, typically they’ll become jaundiced. The infection can scar the liver or cause liver cancer.
Most of these infections happen after a clinician reuses a needle or fails to properly sterilize the instruments used with patients.
In this case the health department was unable to pinpoint the specific mechanism that caused the infection, but it does believe it is related to something that happened in the stress test process.