VA: 5th HIV case linked to unsterile equipment

May 03, 2009 By LISA ORKIN EMMANUEL , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- A fifth patient has tested positive for HIV, and seven more tested positive for hepatitis after being exposed to contaminated medical equipment at three Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, the agency said Friday.

That brings the total who have tested positive for hepatitis to 33.

They are among thousands tested because they were treated with endoscopic equipment that wasn't properly sterilized between patients and exposed them to the of others. The equipment is often used in colonoscopies and ear, nose and throat procedures.

Nearly 11,000 former sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines could have been exposed at the hospitals in Miami, Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga. The agency said 6,687 patients have been notified of their test results so far.

VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the new case was found in the Miami hospital. The agency said in a news release the positive tests were "not necessarily linked to any endoscopy issues."

"It's very disturbing that anybody would contract it, of course. I am pleased that the VA has agreed to treat all the veterans regardless of where they may have contracted it," said Alexander Kovac, a veterans' advocate who was stationed in Korea in the 1960s.

The VA has said the problems with the endoscopic equipment had gone on for years, but were discovered in December when officials learned the Murfreesboro facility wasn't following cleaning procedures the manufacturer recommended. It issued an internal alert for hospitals to check procedures, and the problem at Augusta was discovered in January.

On Feb. 9, the VA announced a nationwide safety check of endoscopic equipment used in colonoscopies and ear, nose and throat treatments. The procedure involves a narrow, flexible tube fitted with a fiber-optic device such as a telescope or magnifying lens that is inserted into the body.

Some veterans were warned in February to get tested, and more were alerted in March when the Miami hospital backtracked on its previous conclusion that it didn't have a problem.

The day after the first HIV infection became public April 6, the VA announced that its top medical official, Dr. Michael Kussman, was retiring. Kussman still works at the VA but could not be reached for comment. Roberts has said there was "no connection whatsoever."

The endoscopic equipment is made by Center Valley, Pa.-based Olympus American Inc., and the company has said its recommended cleaning procedures are clear.

The VA and its inspector general have started investigations, and congressional members of the Veterans Affairs Committee have asked for a hearing in late May to discuss how the VA has been handling the problem.

The VA is providing a hot line for veterans and their families and posts the information it is releasing on its Web site.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Indiana HIV outbreak, hepatitis C epidemic sparks US alert

Related Stories

Magnitude of dirty VA hospital equipment unknown

Apr 25, 2009

(AP) -- Thousands of veterans were at first shocked to learn they should get blood tests for HIV and hepatitis because three hospitals might have treated them with unsterile equipment. Now, just a couple ...

VA investigating nine deaths

Oct 05, 2007

The Veterans Health Administration is investigating nine patient deaths linked to surgeries at the VA Medical Center in Marion, Ill.

Growing problem for veterans: Domestic violence

Nov 06, 2008

"The increasing number of veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) raises the risk of domestic violence and its consequences on families and children in communities across the United States," says Monica Matthieu, ...

Recommended for you

Indiana HIV outbreak, hepatitis C epidemic sparks US alert

Apr 24, 2015

Federal health officials helping to contain an HIV outbreak in Indiana state issued an alert to health departments across the U.S. on Friday, urging them to take steps to identify and track HIV and hepatitis C cases in an ...

Why are HIV survival rates lower in the Deep South than the rest of the US?

Apr 22, 2015

The Deep South region has become the epicenter of the US HIV epidemic. Despite having only 28% of the total US population, nine states in the Deep South account for nearly 40% of national HIV diagnoses. This region has the highest HIV diagnosis rates and the highest number of people living with HIV of any ...

A bad buzz: Men with HIV need fewer drinks to feel effects

Apr 20, 2015

Researchers at Yale and the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System compared the number of drinks that men with HIV infection, versus those without it, needed to get a buzz. They found that HIV-infected men were more sensitive to ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.