A class-action lawsuit has been filed against a Washington hospital where a nurse allegedly exposed thousands of patients to hepatitis C.
The lawsuit, which is the second filed against MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital over an outbreak of hepatitis C, accuses the hospital and its parent company, MultiCare Health System, of a breach of care duties to the 2,600 people that were affected, per the News Tribune. (A former patient filed a lawsuit against the group last week.)
The lawsuits center around allegations that Cora Weberg, an emergency room nurse at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital, exposed patients to hepatitis C by stealing drugs and using her own needle to give patients their medication. Weberg administered hydromorphone and fentanyl to two patients in the ER in December, and both later returned to the ER with symptoms of hepatitis C, according to the Washington State Department of Health. They tested positive for the disease.
Blood from the patients underwent genetic testing, and officials found that the hepatitis C in their blood was from a common source, the Washington State Department of Health says. According to charges, Weberg was the only nurse or doctor at the hospital who treated both patients.
Weberg, who has been fired and had her license revoked, has publicly denied the charges. She said during a news conference last week, per KOMO News, that she has never “intentionally or unintentionally” used a needle on a patient that she used on herself. “I have never thought I had Hepatitis C, and I never intentionally exposed anyone to Hepatitis C,” she said. “Of all the allegations that have been made against me, this is the most awful and it is the allegation that I deny the most.”
Weberg admitted that she had taken narcotics from the hospital in the past in attempts to commit suicide, but she said the medications had already been used on a patient and were thrown in a discard barrel.
Weberg also said, per the Washington Post, that she’s given blood in the past and hasn’t tested positive for hepatitis C. However, she said she was recently tested again and found to have “a very low level of a pathogen in my blood that can constitute hepatitis C but not at the low levels that are found in my blood.” She also said she does not believe she is a “contagious carrier.”
However, a notice that MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital sent out to patients said that Weberg “tested positive” for hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. There were an estimated 34,000 new infections of hepatitis C in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and new infections have nearly tripled over a five-year period.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection, and exposure to dirty needles through injection drug use is one of the most common ways younger people are exposed to the infection, infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We’ve seen outbreaks linked to that,” he says.
Not everyone who is exposed to a contaminated needle will actually get hepatitis C, Adalja says, but it’s important to be screened if you suspect you’ve been exposed. Hepatitis C can be an acute illness or it can become chronic and cause serious illness like liver cirrhosis and liver cancer, Adalja says. However, if it’s caught early, it can be treated with antiviral medications. “Exposed patients should suffer no consequences from hepatitis C if they’re treated,” Adalja says.
A spokesperson for MultiCare Health System tells the News Tribune that nearly 1,200 patients have been screened for hepatitis C so far.
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. Read more about the disease on Yahoo Lifestyle:
- The blood transfusion that saved my life gave me hepatitis C
- Why baby boomers and veterans are more likely to have hepatitis C
- Do you ever share toothbrushes? You could be exposing yourself to a disease