Yesterday Nevada health officials released the findings of a
probe investigating the patients treated at Las Vegas clinics that allegedly
reused single use medication vials and syringes. This is one of the largest
hepatitis outbreaks the nation has ever seen. Seven cases linked to the clinics
had previously been identified by authorities, but the 77 new cases discovered
by the probe have shocked authorities. “This is a very large outbreak and a
very serious illness,” said Brian Labus, the senior epidemiologist for the
Southern Nevada Health District.
The out break began in February, and since that time gained
the attention of the national media, federal health authorities and even the
FBI. Over 40,000 individuals were notified of about the outbreak and urged to
be tested for hepatitis and HIV. About 50,000 blood test have been preformed on
possible victims and those in close contact to them, but officials say that as
many as 10,000 patients were unable to be located and therefore most likely
have not been tested.
Since the first cases were identified, the Endoscopy Center
of Southern Nevada has been closed and fined $500,000. Two doctors, including
the center’s owner, Depak Desai, have been required to stop practicing.
Health authorities had not inspected the clinics in question
since 2001, although state policy requires inspection every three years. The
licensing agency cited insufficient funding as the reason for the delay.
This type of blatant disregard for policy and standard
hygiene practices is unacceptable. The owners of the these clinics ordered
their staff reuse single use products in an effort to maximize profits and in
turn placed innocent lives at risk. Hundreds of former patients have joined a
class action lawsuit against the clinics and their owners.