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Texas Clinics Possibly Exposed Patients to HIV, Hep C, Say Officials

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AP File Photo/M. Spencer Green

Officials in Galveston County, Texas, say nearly 10,000 patients of a health clinic may have been exposed to potentially life-threatening viruses including HIV and Hepatitis due to faulty serialization procedures. State and local officials are attempting to determine if any patients were actually infected.

The sterilization issue came to light during an accreditation site review conducted at Coastal Health & Wellness clinics in Texas City and Galveston in February. During that review, inspectors determined the clinics had breaches in their infection control processes for some dental and medical procedures that “may have put patients at risk for the Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV viruses,” Fox 26 Houston reported.

“Although we have no conclusive evidence at this time that disease transmission has taken place from procedures that were performed at Coastal Health & Wellness, we want to err on the side of caution and offer testing to any patients who could have been impacted,” Galveston County Local Health Authority’s Dr. Philip Keiser told the local Fox affiliate.

“Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV are serious medical conditions,” Keiser explained. “People who are infected may not exhibit any symptoms of the disease for many years, so that is why it is important to get tested and treated.”

Galveston County Health District (GCHD) officials launched an investigation immediately upon notified of the possible exposures. The Texas Department of State Health Services is assisting in the ongoing investigation.

Officials are asking that anyone who received certain medical and dental procedures at Coastal Health & Wellness clinics located in Texas City and Galveston between March 1, 2015, and February 13, 2018, to contact the GCHD to arrange for free testing.

Fox 26 reported:

Testing services will begin on Monday, March 26, 2018 at the Galveston County Health District Public Health Office lon 9850 Emmett F Lowry Expressway, Entrance B, in Texas City and will continue until Friday, April 13, 2018.  To schedule an appointment, visit www.gchd.org or contact the GCHD Investigation Hotline number at 409-938-2397.  Anyone who lives outside Galveston County should contact their physician or local health department to arrange testing.

Operators will be available via the GCHD Investigation Hotline starting on Monday, March 26 at 409-938-2397 between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 AM until 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays to assist any Coastal Health & Wellness patients who may have additional questions.

One patient who wished to remain anonymous told the Fox 26 Houston reporter, “I came here to get it extracted [in the fall of 2016]. I came back a couple of months later, a month and a half maybe later to get another tooth extracted but they couldn’t do it because I was cramping so they sent me to the doctor and they did blood work on me and then after that they called me back and informed me that I had Hepatitis C.”

The man said he had blood work done previously that showed no signs of Hepatitis C. “I knew there was no way I could’ve contracted it but they didn’t have a clue of how I received it,” he says.

Dr. Keiser said the local health clinic has been cited for “11 immediate threat to life violations, all of which centered around cleaning and sterilization of dental instruments and instruments used for minor surgery.

Clinic officials say they are fully cooperating with county and state health officials and ceased operations on February 14.

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