New test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirm a genetic link between four more hepatitis C cases in the outbreak at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup. As of July 24, the total number of confirmed genetically linked cases is 12.
On June 7, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department announced eight hepatitis C cases were genetically linked.
Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus that attacks the liver, and if left untreated, can cause life-long complications like cirrhosis (scarring) or liver cancer. Most people with the virus don’t know they have it because so few people show symptoms.
On April 30, Good Samaritan Hospital announced a potential hepatitis C exposure and notified around 2,800 patients who visited the Emergency Department between Aug. 4, 2017 and March 23, 2018. The hospital provided testing, and if needed, free treatment for affected patients.
The current test results from the outbreak as of July 24:
• Total Tested – 1,858
• Total Untested – Around 900
• Negative Tests (negative hepatitis C test) – 1,787
•Not Related (hepatitis C positive, unrelated to investigation) – 53
• Under Investigation (hepatitis C positive, still under investigation) – 5
• Probable Cases (hepatitis C positive, under investigation awaiting CDC lab testing) – 1
•Confirmed Cases (hepatitis C positive, genetic link confirmed by CDC lab testing) – 12
None of the patients has any connection to one another, except for potential exposure to the virus when they received treatment at the Good Samaritan Hospital Emergency Department. The only common caregiver who tested antibody positive for hepatitis C and gave intravenous injections to all confirmed genetically linked hepatitis C cases is a nurse who no longer works at the hospital.
“In any outbreak investigation, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department gathers information about people, places, timelines and events to help us determine the most likely source of the outbreak, so we can stop it,” said Nigel Turner, communicable disease division director. “Our primary concern is to ensure people who may have been exposed to a disease get the treatment they need to be healthy,” he said.
About 65% of people notified have been tested.
MORE PEOPLE WITH HEPATITIS C CAN NOW GET TREATMENT
Because of the large number of people tested, the Health Department expected to find people who had the illness from other exposure sources not related to the Good Samaritan exposure. Anyone born between 1945 and 1965 is five times as likely to have the disease. Of the 1,858 people who got tested, 53 had hepatitis C from unrelated exposure sources.
“When you have hepatitis C, you can feel fine for many years while the virus does damage to your liver and threatens your health,” said Turner. “Because these people paid attention to the health notification from their provider, they are now able to seek treatment for this dangerous disease. With treatment, they can recover and prevent further spread of the disease in our community,” he said.
About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment to protect public health. We are one of only 163 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at www.tpchd.org.