Inconsistency in Screening puts 650 Dialysis Patients at Risk of Hepatitis B

At least 650 dialysis patients are at an increased risk of blood infection, thanks to lapses in hepatitis B screening procedures of a Seattle hospital. In a statement on June 17, the hospital said that patients treated in its dialysis unit since 2011 should get tested for hepatitis B infection.

Virginia Mason Hospital said that the patients at risk have been exposed to hepatitis B, serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus, over last about five years. It happened because the hospital staff was inconsistent in screening, it added.

It is still unknown whether the patients diagnosed with hepatitis B were treated in the three-bed dialysis unit of the hospital, said Virginia Mason Hospital officials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said people who are positive for

hepatitis B should prefer private room for treatment. They should ensure that their room is far from other patients, as per the CDC.

There’s still no proof which could suggest that patient got the infection in the facility, as per the hospital officials. According to public health officials, there are low chances of people getting the infection though transmission, but the hospital decided to contact some of its past patients.

There are very low risks of people getting exposure to hepatitis B due to other infection-control safeguards, said Dr. Cyrus Cryst, Virginia Mason Hospital’s nephrology unit head, in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are informing patients of the situation, explaining there was a minimal risk of exposure for them and letting them know we are a ready resource for any questions they have. Patient safety is always our top priority”, Cryst added.

Hepatitis B-related complications take life of about 800,000 people every year. As per CDC, the only way to deal with the condition is to get vaccinated.

“A Seattle hospital says about 650 dialysis patients since 2011 might have been exposed to hepatitis B because of a lapse in screening procedures. But the Virginia Mason Hospital and Medical Center and King County public health officials said Friday the risk of transmission is low,” according to a news report published by FoxNews.

Virginia Mason notified health officials in late May that staff had not been consistently screening and isolating patients, which is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The hospital urged patients to get tested for hepatitis B.

He says officials found no evidence of increased of risk for acquiring blood-borne pathogen infections in the hospital’s dialysis unit. The nonprofit Northwest Kidney Centers is contracted to provide dialysis at the hospital.

According to a report in Tech Times by Rhodi Lee, “Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can spread through contact with body fluids such as semen and blood of infected individuals via sexual contact and sharing of medical equipment. The virus attacks the liver, potentially causing acute and chronic liver failure.”

“The risk of exposure to hepatitis B was very low because of our other infection-control safeguards,” said Virginia Mason Hospital’s nephrology unit head Dr. Cyrus Cryst. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are informing patients of the situation, explaining there was a minimal risk of exposure for them and letting them know we are a ready resource for any questions they have. Patient safety is always our top priority.”

During a news conference, Cryst acknowledged that the potential exposure of the hospital’s patients stems from lapses in protocols and screening inconsistencies but assured that officials have worked to address these problems.

A survey conducted by the nonprofit organization Joint Commission, which accredits thousands of health care organizations and programs in the United States, alerted the hospital of screening inconsistencies, prompting an investigation. Virginia Mason then notified public health officials of the screening lapses late last month.

A report published in Outbreak News Today informed, “The individuals are being informed of this situation and encouraged to contact their health care provider to determine their hepatitis B status or need for further screening. Virginia Mason is offering to assist in the screening process, if needed.”

Virginia Mason has added a feature to the electronic medical record that now automatically orders a hepatitis B screening for dialysis patients. This step ensures each patient’s hepatitis B status is current. It also alerts the care team to appropriately isolate an individual who is hepatitis B-positive during dialysis. Virginia Mason collaborated with Northwest Kidney Centers, which provides dialysis services at the medical center, to strengthen patient safety measures.

Hepatitis B is a blood-borne virus that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a chronic liver condition. The prevalence of hepatitis B has declined in recent decades and is now seen in approximately one percent of dialysis patients in the United States.

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