114 Total Hepatitis Cases Linked to Las Vegas Clinics
Investigators believe they have identified nearly everyone who may have contracted hepatitis C at two Las Vegas medical clinics. This is the latest in an outbreak first reported last year in which thousands of people may have been exposed to a variety of diseases, including HIV due to the clinics’ unsafe practice of reusing syringes and medical vials. Both clinics – the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center – have since been closed. However, only nine of the 114 cases have been directly linked to the clinics. The other 105 cases are of people who have been diagnosed since becoming patients at the clinics, but could have contracted hepatitis C elsewhere.
Nonetheless, 50,000 patients of Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and 13,000 patients of Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center have been notified by health officials to get tested for hepatitis B, C, and HIV. There have been no cases found in which patients contracted hepatitis B or HIV from the clinics. A final report on the outbreak is due at the beginning of January 2009.
Dr. Dipak Desai, a Nevada gastroenterologist headed several clinics in the Las Vegas area, including the two at the center of the outbreak. He has since surrendered his medical license pending the results of the investigation. Desai and other former clinic owners are facing 120 lawsuits for alleged medical negligence, as well as a class-action suit brought by patients for emotional distress.
Hepatitis C is an incurable blood-borne disease of the liver. It causes swelling of the liver, fatigue, stomach pain, and jaundice. Symptoms may not always occur, though damage to the liver will continue.