7 'probable' hep C cases linked to Washington hospital; 12 more under investigation

The Tacoma Pierce County Health Department in Washington announced seven new "probable" cases of hepatitis C tied to an outbreak at Puyallup, Wash.-based MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital, and an additional 12 cases that are still under investigation, according to The Spokesman-Review.

Here are seven things to know about the case.

1. The health department announced the update in a May 9 blog post and said it would release weekly updates on the investigation.

2. The update reflects information and testing results gathered since April 30, when MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital officials issued a recommendation to an estimated 2,761 patients treated in the hospital's emergency room during an eight-month period between August 2017 and March 23 to receive testing for hepatitis C, according to the health department.

3. The health department said 1,065 patients have undergone testing, and 1,028 of those patients showed no signs of the infection. Of the 37 patients who tested positive for hepatitis C, experts experts deemed 16 cases unrelated to the outbreak at the Puyallup hospital. Roughly 1,696 patients have yet to be tested.

4. Data from the seven "probable" cases linked to the outbreak at the hospital were submitted to the CDC for further analysis. The 12 additional cases require further investigation, the health department said.

"To put these numbers in a broader context, Pierce County has 18 acute hepatitis C cases so far this year. … According to the [CDC], the total for the county may be the tip of the iceberg. The CDC estimates because so many people have the virus and don't know it, the county most likely has nearly 14 times as many cases. That's an estimated 250 people who have hepatitis C in Pierce County," the health department said in the blog post.

5. Police arrested former MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital nurse Cora Weberg, 31, earlier this week. Ms. Weberg, who no longer works at the hospital, has been accused of infecting at least two patients with hepatitis C. She has since been released from police custody and has not been charged with a crime.

6. Hospital officials cited Ms. Weberg as "the common denominator" between the first two cases because she reportedly treated both patients in the hospital's ED. While the health department confirmed the two patients contracted the virus from the same genetic source, officials have not been able to establish a genetic link between the patients and Ms. Weberg.

7. The state nursing commission suspended Ms. Weberg's nursing license May 7, citing unprofessional conduct. During a May 8 press conference, Ms. Weberg claimed she did not intentionally infect the two patients with hepatitis C, but did admit to diverting leftover dosages of medications she gave to patients.

To access The Spokesman-Review report, click here.

More articles on quality and infection control:
Washington nurse accused of infecting patients with hep C loses nursing license, claims she 'did not do this'
10 new genetic tests entering market daily, study finds
Patient reportedly told Washington hospital about accused nurse, forced injections last fall

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