Diabetics Contract Hepatitis from Army's Unsafe Needle Puncture

EL PASO, Texas, March 11, 2009

The proper precautions for a needle puncture weren't followed and thousands of diabetics were put at risk for Hepatitis and HIV infection.

More than 2,000 diabetics treated at the William Beaumont Army Medical center between August 2007 and January 2009 may have been exposed to blood-borne illnesses from an unsafe needle puncture. Already, 16 patients exposed at the facility through an unsafe needle puncture have tested positive for Hepatitis C, according to statements from Army officials. The program was poorly managed and routinely administered injections to multiple patients with a puncture from a single insulin pen.

In order to determine if the 16 patients recently diagnosed with Hepatitis C contracted the disease from the unsafe puncture, or if they already harbored the infections, the patients' blood is being tested. They are also being treated for their condition with all costs paid for by the hospital due to the mismanaged care and needle puncture they are responsible for, according to Lt. Col. Sandy LaFon, Chief of Preventive Medicine for the hospital.

It is still a mystery how many people of the thousands treated and who received a needle puncture at the hospital have been infected with Hepatitis or HIV because they haven't all been screened. Typical symptoms of Hepatitis C are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice. Eventually, it causes severe liver damage. What LaFon is sure of is that five affected patients had already been diagnosed with HIV and four others were aware of their Hepatitis B infections prior to being infected with Hepatitis C from the needle puncture at the facility.

In order to prevent future occurrences, employees at the hospital were trained on the proper usage of insulin pens and how to puncture patients safely. There is now a requirement for employees to label each pen with the patient's name, ensuring only one is used to puncture each patient.

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