Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2017

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Las Vegas hepatitis cases spark CDC training video

Sun Coverage

A new training video illustrating safe handling of medications and injections by medical professionals was prompted by a hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas, a federal medical officer said.

One message comes across loud and clear in the video released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Use one needle, one syringe, only one time."

The video is part of the "One & Only Campaign," a national public health education and awareness initiative developed by the Safe Injection Practices Coalition. The coalition includes patient advocacy organizations, foundations, health care providers and the CDC.

"What happened in Las Vegas has played a critical role in our deciding to remind providers throughout the country that every injection should be a safe one," said Dr. Melissa Schaefer of the CDC in Atlanta. "We want medical professionals to look carefully at their practices."

The video shows three scenarios in three settings where medications are prepared and administered: an operating room, an oncology clinic and a pain management clinic.

The viewer is taken through potential errors in medication handling and injection preparation and administration.

Each scenario ends with a summary of steps that should be taken to assure safe care.

Schaefer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the 10-minute video, expected to be used by medical schools, hospitals, private practitioners and surgical centers, also dispels common myths about injection practices.

One is that it can be safe to administer medication from single-dose vials to multiple patients.

The public awareness coalition was organized largely by Nebraskan Evelyn McKnight, who contracted hepatitis C while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

She used settlement funds to found Hepatitis Outbreaks National Organization for Reform, or HONOReform, which first became known to Nevadans when McKnight testified at a Legislative Committee on Health Care hearing in the wake of the Las Vegas hepatitis outbreak.

McKnight, who is featured in the video, said what she called the "enormity of the suffering" in Nevada would prompt more attention to injection practices everywhere.

"What happened in Las Vegas really moved this public health campaign forward," she said.

The hepatitis outbreak in Las Vegas was blamed on health care providers reusing syringes and contaminating vials of the anesthetic propofol used among several patients.

Southern Nevada Health District officials say at least nine and and as many as 114 patients contracted hepatitis C at two Las Vegas outpatient clinics run by the same doctor.

More than 50,000 patients were notified in 2008 to get tested for the incurable liver disease, along with HIV and other blood-borne diseases.

The Las Vegas exposure was one of 35 known hepatitis outbreaks in the last decade that placed the health of more than 100,000 Americans at risk, according to public health officials.

Dr. Michael Bell, the video's narrator and the CDC's deputy director for infection control, said the outbreaks have to stop.

"One infection due to unsafe injection practices in unacceptable," Bell said. "Every health care provider has the responsibility to ensure that all injections given to patients are safe."

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