Investigators blame testing for hepatitis outbreak

November 12, 2010 12:11:49 PM PST
Officials with the North Carolina Division of Public Health confirmed Friday that investigators believe improper use of blood glucose level testers likely led to hepatitis B infections and deaths at a Mt. Olive assisted living facility.

Eight patients have contracted the disease at at Glen Care of Mt. Olive in Wayne County. Five have died.

Hepatitis B is a blood-borne disease that is typically transmitted by exposure to blood or body fluids. State investigators say during interviews with Glen Care employees, one medication tech admitted the same blood testing needles were shared between multiple patients.

"The medication tech we interviewed indicated that glucometers and adjustable lancing devices were not routinely cleaned and disinfected between uses," the report also says.

In a statement to the media Thursday, George Kornegay - President of Kornegay Healthcare, which owns Glen Care - said the facility is not admitting or acknowledging they caused the deaths.

Korgegay said an internal investigation has not found the employee who said needles were shared and he stated the same patients also saw many other doctors during the time they were infected.

Kornegay said the facility is now using registered nurses to oversee blood testing to make sure sterile equipment is used.

State investigators said their investigation has not revealed how hepatitis first entered the facility. They said it was possible it came from a patient who was a chronic carrier who was deceased or discharged before the investigation began.

The report recommends all current and former residents who've lived at Glen Care since January 1 get tested for hepatitis.

It also says disposable blood testing needles should be used on patients who require blood glucose level monitoring and that associated equipment should be cleaned and disinfected between each use.

Click here to read the full report (.pdf)

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