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NY Hospital Warns Patients of Possible Exposure to Hepatitis and HIV

Update Date: Mar 13, 2014 09:37 AM EDT

Over 4,200 patients from a New York hospital might be at risk of developing hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. According to health officials, patients from the South Nassau Communities Hospital in Long Island might have been exposed to these viruses from an insulin pen that was most likely used on more than one patient. The hospital has sent out a letter to inform these at-risk patients to schedule a blood test.

The patients are instructed to call (516) 208-0029 to schedule their appointments. All blood tests will be free of charge and confidential.

The hospital was alerted of the potential exposure to the viruses after someone reported hearing a nurse say that reusing multidose insulin pens on multiple patients was okay.

"Once that was said, we then followed through with a report to the state Department of Health," hospital spokesman Damian Becker told NBC News.

The hospital reported that at-risk patients were admitted from March 2011 through to January 2014. During their stay, the patients had been administered insulin shots via a multidose pen. The insulin pens contain disposable needles in a cartridge or reservoir that have doses of the hormone, insulin. Since the pens cut into a patient's skin, blood can end up contaminating the device, which could then contaminate another user. It is standard procedure to use one pen per patient. The hospital stated that reusing multidose insulin pens has never occurred at the hospital before this incident.

"The risk of infection from this is extremely low," the hospital said in a statement reported by Reuters Health. "South Nassau has already implemented a hospital-wide policy that bans the use of insulin pens and permits only the use of single-patient-use vials to administer prescribed insulin treatments to patients."

So far, around 200 patients have scheduled their blood tests.

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