Inadequate Hygiene at VA Hospital Blamed for Hepatitis Infection

A veteran who claims he contracted a Hepatitis infection from a Florida Veterans Administration (VA) hospital has won his case. A federal judge in Miami ruled for the plaintiff and his wife who sued for $30 million dollars in damages. At this time, compensation has not been determined.

The patient claimed in the lawsuit that he acquired Hepatitis C after having a routine colonoscopy performed at the Florida Veterans Administration Hospital in 2007. Nearly two years after the procedure, he and thousands of veterans received letters from the VA urging them to have blood tests. The VA claimed that some medical equipment had not been cleaned and sterilized properly between patients. The letters were sent to veterans who had received treatment at VA hospitals in five states. Four days after receiving the letter, the plaintiff tested positive for Hepatitis C infection.

VA

Hepatitis C is a virus that affects the liver, causing inflammation. Signs and symptoms of Hepatitis C infection include, jaundice, tiredness, upset stomach, loss of appetite and dark yellow urine. Some people can fight the infection, but most often the disease becomes chronic, or lifelong. Without treatment, a chronic Hepatitis C infection can lead to liver damage, such as cirrhosis, and liver cancer or failure.

Hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne infection in the United States.

According to the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), veterans who use the VA health system, have a significantly higher risk of contracting Hepatitis C than that of the general population.

Treatment of the infection is ongoing for 2 to 4 years and includes weekly injections and oral medications designed to attach the Hepatitis C virus. In the case of liver failure, a liver transplant is necessary. However, the disease can still return with the new liver.

Ongoing Issues with Infections at VA Hospitals

Recently, a traveling, temporary medical technician, who worked at several VA hospitals in seven states, was charged with infecting 30 patients with Hepatitis C. The technician, David Kwiatkowski, was accused of injecting himself with painkiller medication and then filling the syringe with saline solution and using it on the intended patient.

A VA hospital in St. Louis may have exposed eighteen-hundred veterans to Hepatitis C and HIV through contaminated dental instruments.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has conducted a nationwide study of veterans with Hepatitis C, who use the VA health system, in order to better form health care policy at VA hospitals around the country.

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