Former patients test negative for hepatitis C after healthcare worker scare

Some 340 people who were screened for hepatitis C in the west - after it emerged they may have been treated by a healthcare worker infected with the virus - have tested negative.

A total of 454 people were invited by the health authority for the precautionery test. Some 75 per cent of these were screened, according to a statement issued by the HSE.

It outlined it is continuing to work with the relevant GPs and health agencies. “This is part of the normal look back procedures to ensure that all identified patients are offering the screening blood test and all patients are followed up.”

The healthcare employee in question worked at three hospitals in the HSE West and was involved in a number of surgical procedures at Galway University Hospitals [UHG and Merlin Park] Mayo General Hospital and Letterkenny General Hospital between 2004 and 2008.

The HSE said while the risk to patients was considered to be very low, screening was good practice and allowed patients to be reassured of their own safety. It regretted the worry that reviews like this could cause but said they are carried out with patients’ best interest in mind.

Hepatitis C is a virus which can affect the liver. Healthcare workers may contract it from infected patients during their work. People have also become infected through infected blood or blood products and sharing needles among injecting drug users. Blood and blood products are now screened so that the chance of getting the infection in this way is very unlikely. The risk of acquiring the infection from an infected healthcare worker is very low, according to the HSE West. However, national guidance on best practice recommends that patients who had exposure prone procedures should be followed up.

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