Over 400 Patients at Massachusetts Hospital Potentially Exposed to HIV and Hepatitis

Patients undergoing endoscopy at Salem Hospital in Massachusetts were potentially exposed over two years.

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Nearly 450 patients at Salem Hospital in Massachusetts have been informed they were potentially exposed to HIV and hepatitis.

Per NBC News, the hospital informed hundreds of patients who underwent endoscopy could have been exposed due to improper administration IV medications. Salem Hospital learned of the possible exposures, which happened over a two-year period, earlier this year and immediately corrected the procedures.

"The safety of our patients is our highest priority, and we have undertaken multiple corrective actions in response to this event. We sincerely apologize to those who have been impacted and we remain committed to delivering high-quality, compassionate health care to our community,” the hospital said in a statement, noting that the likelihood these patients were infected is "extremely small." As of Thursday, Nov. 16, none of those notified have reported infection, the hospital's director of external communications said. The hospital has begun testing people for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

"Salem Hospital has notified all potentially impacted patients, set up a clinician-staffed hotline to answer questions, and we are providing them with free screening and any necessary support," the statement added. "There is no evidence to date of any infections resulting from this incident."

As reported by ABC News, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health performed an onsite investigation following the discovery of the potential exposures. "DPH advised the hospital to notify all impacted patients in writing about the potential exposure to bloodborne pathogens and to offer free-of-charge follow-up care, including testing," the department said.

Both hepatitis B and C are treatable and curable infections through the use of antiviral medications, while HIV is not curable and can only be managed with antiretroviral therapy.

Tufts Medicine health system's chief infection control officer Dr. Shira Doron said that it's "pretty rare" for patients to be potentially exposed to HIV and hepatitis at hospitals. “Every three years we have an unannounced survey, and that’s one of the big things that the surveyors are looking for is to make sure that you’re taking all the required steps to prevent the transfer of bloodborne pathogens," she added.

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