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6,800 may be exposed to HIV, hepatitis infection at Ottawa clinic


08:59, October 17, 2011

OTTAWA, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Health authorities in Canada's capital warned on Saturday that nearly 7,000 people who visited a local medical facility over the past ten years may have been exposed to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

Isra Levy, an official of Ottawa Public Health, said at a hastily called news conference that letters will be sent to the people at risk suggesting a blood test, but he was unaware of anyone who has been infected.

He said authorities have been investigating an unnamed non-hospital facility for the past several months because of "lapses in infection control."

Public health officials call the risk "less than one in a million," but say those who get the letters should get tested.

Levy said, "Even though the risk of infection to those who had the procedures related to this issue is very low, I wanted to ensure that affected patients are made aware of the situation, so they can consider being tested for these infections."

Levy wouldn't say exactly what the "lapse" was, but did say there are a number of reasons why problems arise including the improper cleaning of equipment and inadequate sterilization.

He further noted the lapse involves one physician, and the problem was spotted during a spot check in early summer by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Since then, Ottawa's public health department has been tracing former patients going back 10 years, as it isn't sure when the "lapse" began.

Failure to screen blood donations in Canada in the 1980s caused severe consequences, as 1,100 Canadians were infected with HIV and 20,000 contracted Hepatitis C after receiving blood from the Canadian Red Cross.


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