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Hepatitis C Persists in Exeter Hospital Patients

A total of 31 people connected to Exeter Hospital have now been diagnosed with hepatitis C.

State officials reported July 12 that four more cases of the serious liver disease were discovered in addition to the 26 others diagnosed since the end of May. One additional person, a hospital employee, also has been found to have the disease.

The number of cases has grown progressively since hospital administrators held a news conference to announce finding the four cases when they were first found.

Investigators said in June that they believed the outbreak began when a hospital employee stole and injected some drugs from the facility and then infected patients who were injected with contaminated syringes or needles.

The hospital is asking all patients who were treated between Oct. 1, 2010, and May 25, 2012, in the facility's cardiac catheterization lab and a recovery room next door to make contact and be tested for hepatitis C.

Director of Public Health Dr. José Montero stated Thursday that they were testing patients who had been at the hospital since Oct. 1, 2010. Hospital administrators said over 1,000 patients have been identified and had blood tests. An additional 50 have yet to be tested. The hospital is trying to reach these remaining former patients.

The hospital released a statement saying, "Our staff continues to actively reach out to these identified patients and is doing everything they can to contact them to contact them and schedule an appointment as soon as possible."

Patients who have yet to be tested may make an appointment by calling Exeter Hospital's Information and Referral Center.

The attorney general from New Hampshire and representatives from the U.S. Attorney's Office have indicated they are trying to determine if a crime was committed.

Since the beginning of July nearly 60 patients who had been treated at the hospital have filed lawsuits. Of the 60, a minimum of 47 patients have decided to take part in a class-action lawsuit. Twelve others are filing individually.

Hepatitis C is a viral disease that causes the liver to swell. The illness is usually not noticed when it is first contracted. If the swelling of the liver persists, scarring of the liver and cirrhosis develop.

Patients infected with hepatitis C often suffer from long-term possibly debilitating disease.

Sources:

PubMed Health - PubMed Health

Boston.com - Boston.com

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