The Southern Nevada Health District has identified 105 cases of chronic hepatitis C, nine of which are believed to have come from unsafe public health practices at two Las Vegas outpatient clinics.
Hepatitis C is an incurable blood disorder, transmitted through blood, that attacks the liver.
It can be asymptomatic and only came to light after one person was diagnosed with the infection after having a procedure at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.
That facility and the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center are the two owned by Dr. Dipak Desai, a prominent Nevada gastroenterologist.
Then in July, the health district identified two cases related to the Endoscopy Center. One had a procedure on July 25, 2007 and the other on September 21, 2007, the known dates that disease transmission occurred.
Of the total, nine have direct links to the clinics.
The health district has received forms from more than 7,000 former patients who were part of the investigation after having procedures at the clinics between March 2004 and July 11, 2008.
The remaining patients with no identified risk factors as “possibly associated.” 35 former patients having one or more risk factors associated with hepatitis C infection are classified as “indeterminate.” Risk factors could include multiple sex partners or IV drug use.
We still have some analysis to do,” said Brian Labus, an epidemiologist with the district. He said the new number represents an increase from the 86 reported in July, “but we don’t expect the numbers to change much.”
In order to cut costs, employees at the clinics report they were told to reuse syringes, use a single dose of anesthesia on multiple patients. In some cases, equipment used during a colonoscopy was not sanitized between patients, they say.
The clinics have since closed and Dr. Desai surrendered his license to practice medicine during the investigation. At one point, IB News reports, he allegedly tried to have two luxury cars shipped to Dubai.
He and other clinic owners are facing over 120 lawsuits alleging medical negligence and a class-action by patients who do not have hepatitis but suffered emotion distress while waiting to find out if they did.
In July, a judge allowed emotional distress cases to be added to the class-action.
One 60-year-old man was diagnosed with hepatitis C and his Widow alleges in her lawsuit that he contracted it after being treated at the clinics. #