Yet Another Hepatitis Outbreak

top view of liver and lettering hepatitis on red background, world hepatitis day concept


Hospital HandHospitals are big. They see thousands of patients each day, many of whom need a quick dose of pain relief—a numbing shot before a simple outpatient procedure, a bigger dose before surgery, maybe a second or third dose during surgery.

And here’s where things can go really, really wrong.

Once or twice a year, a hospital, an outpatient clinic, or a dentist’s office gets caught with an employee who’s been stealing pain medications, and possibly contaminating them with diseases like Hepatitis A, B, C, HIV, MRSA, and more.

It happens a couple of ways. If they’re stealing single dose shots, they’re contaminating the needle directly. If they’re “borrowing” out of a multi-dose jar, they may or may not be using the same needle, but they’re also contaminating the jar (and even if they don’t have an illness, reusable jars carry a MRSA risk).

The newest outbreak is another Denver one: at Swedish Hospital in Englewood, a newer employee was caught stealing medicine, and may have contaminated surgical patients with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, or HIV.

Hepatitis B is treatable. HIV is a bit more complicated—currently very treatable, with new treatments being researched and current treatments slowly becoming less effective. Hepatitis C has a new, very expensive cure, and is traditionally not treated until symptoms are severe.

Supporting your immune system every day is helpful, but especially before and after a trip to the hospital. Being sick takes a lot out of you—and besides the complications specific to any particular illness, being sick works over your immune system, leaving you more at risk for a secondary illness. On top of that, being in the hospital raises its own risks, just because you’re a patient (nevermind being a ICU patient or a surgery patient!).

What you can do to prevent hospital acquired infections (HAIs):

-Wash your hands, and watch for anyone who enters your room to wash their hands, too. Don’t be afraid to call them out–they’re required to, and if they are grudging about it, it’s a good sign of bigger problems.

-Have someone who’s following your treatment, including what and how medications are delivered.

Support your immune system.

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