18 Patients at Buffalo VA Test Positive for Hepatitis

11:37 PM, May 9, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Congressman Chris Collins' office says at least 18 patients at the Buffalo VA Hospital have tested positive for Hepatitis due possibly due to insulin pens that may have been reused.

Congressman Chris Collins' office says 12 veterans tested positive for Hepatitis B and six tested positive for Hepatitis C.

According to officials the VA says there is no way of knowing how the patient contracted Hepatitis.

Collins' office was part of a briefing regarding the exposure.  They shared these numbers they received to 2 On Your Side

• Of the 716 veterans possibly exposed, 174 passed away prior to the alert
• Of those living, 394 veterans have been tested
• 12 tested positive for HEP B (VA says there is no way of knowing if this exposure is how the patient contracted disease)
• 6 tested positive for HEP C (VA says there is no way of knowing if this exposure is how the patient contracted disease)
• 27 results still pending
• VA still trying to contact 94 veterans to get tested
• 26 refused to be tested

In January, the VA Hospital alerted patients that insulin pens were mistakenly reused and that there was a chance that patients may have been exposed.

Olean General Hospital also alerted some 1,900 patients who were treated with an insulin pen between November, 2009 and January 16th, 2013.   Hospital officials at Olean General emphasized there is no documentation of the transmission of any blood borne infections during the stay of any patient who received insulin during that time, and the hospital has not identified a single patient who ever received an injection from another patient's insulin pen.

Collins calls the error at the VA Hospital an unfortunate circumstance that did not need to happen. He is calling for changes at the VA from the top down.

"Frankly, I would call on the President. Some heads need to roll here," says Collins.

The VA has stopped using the pens all together, which Collins says doesn't make sense because as long as you reuse a pen with a single patient, there is no risk of exposure.

"They just said oh, it's a knee jerk reaction let's just not use them at all. Well, that's just passing up on potential savings if they're used properly," says Collins.

The infected veterans will get treatment, which varies from patient to patient, as do the symptoms.

"Usually Hepatitis B goes away and you're cured of it. Your body just cures itself. Hepatitis C, often you have no symptoms for years and then you can develop symptoms such as cirrhosis of the liver and you can actually get liver cancer from it, but very often there are no symptoms from Hepatitis C though," says former Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Anthony Billittier.

And, while the patients will never know if they got Hepatitis at the VA Hospital, Collins says one thing is for certain.
"I'm sure the families and patients involved are going to certainly allege that this was a direct result of the re-use of those pens. So, the taxpayers are at risk here. I wouldn't doubt for a minute there won't be lawsuits that would come forward," he says.

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