Tuesday, March 18, 2008 | 1:52 p.m.
Health district officials said today that they are “pretty confident” they have identified another patient who contracted hepatitis C at a Las Vegas clinic.
If confirmed, the case would be the first new one identified since health officials announced three weeks ago that unsafe injection practices at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada resulted in six individuals contracting hepatitis C. Another 40,000 patients of the clinic have been notified that they should be tested for infectious diseases.
This new case involves a different clinic, the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center of Nevada at 4275 Burnham Ave. in Las Vegas. It is owned by Dr. Vishvinder Sharma and Dr. Om Hari.
Dr. Lawrence Sands, chief health officer for the Southern Nevada Heath District, said during a Clark County Commission meeting today that the new patient in question had a blood test immediately before a procedure at the Desert Shadow clinic and it was negative for hepatitis C.
Sands also said the district evaluated the patient’s risk factors for contracting hepatitis C and found the only risk was the procedure at Desert Shadow, Sands said.
“We feel pretty confident from the information we have so far that there is a link there,” he said.
Sands said the health district is still awaiting records from the clinic – which are now in the hands of law enforcement – so that health officials can finish their investigation and determine whether a second wave of notifications are necessary.
Sands said he wanted to make Clark County officials aware of the case because they were weighing whether to suspend business licenses of the Desert Shadow clinic and two other clinics.
Commissioners voted to issue limited suspensions. The suspension prevents any invasive procedures at the facilities, but allows the clinics’ doctors to consult patients, provide medical records and write prescriptions. Those are non-issues now because all three clinics are closed.
Their attorney, Jay Brown, told commissioners that law enforcement agencies have seized the clinics’ records, but he said the clinics expect to have those records – or copies of them – returned soon. When that happens, the clinics want to be able to share those records with patients and provide consultations.
Commissioners required the clinics to notify the county that they have received the records before opening again.