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From correspondents in Los Angeles February 29, 2008 06:15am Article from: Agence France-Presse US officials say 40,000 people may have been infected with HIV and hepatitis in a major health scare after a Las Vegas clinic was found to have re-used syringes and medicine vials. Authorities in southern Nevada today said they were notifying some 40,000 patients who received anesthesia injections at the clinic's endoscopy centre between March 2004 and January 11, 2008 about potential exposure to hepatitis and HIV. They recommended patients "contact their primary care physicians or health care providers to get tested for hepatitis C as well as hepatitis B and HIV". The move comes after several acute cases of hepatitis C showed up in the area. Six people have been diagnosed with the disease since January, which is three times higher than the yearly average for the Las Vegas region. The three first cases came to light in January, and three other patients were subsequently found to have been infected with hepatitis C. Five of the infected people all received anesthesia injections on the same day in the Endoscopy Centre of Southern Nevada in the sprawling city of Las Vegas. After an investigation, "the health district determined that unsafe injection practices related to the administration of anesthesia medication might have exposed patients to the blood of other patients", it said. "The joint investigation identified the re-use of syringes (not needles) and the use of single dose vials of anesthesia medication on multiple patients as the potential sources of contamination." Action has since been taken by the clinic to end such practices. "It appears the injection practices that can lead to the transmission of hepatitis C and other bloodborne infections have been occurring at this clinic for several years," said chief health officer Lawrence Sands. "We are recommending all patients during this timeframe to get tested because we cannot determine which patients may have been exposed." The symptoms of hepatitis C may not show up for several years, before resulting in severe liver damage so even patients who felt well should be tested, he warned. The health authorities added though that the risk to the general population was low as hepatitis cannot be spread by casual contact.
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