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More than 4,000 at risk after insulin injections at NY hospital

A New York hospital has notified more than 4,200 patients that they may be at risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis after receiving an injection of insulin at the hospital. Officials say that the hospital has discontinued the use of the dangerous injection method that caused the infection risk, but it is not yet clear just why that risky practice was used in the first place.

The method in question is injection via a pen-shaped injector, which holds the insulin in a reservoir or cartridge. The CDC recommends that the pen injectors are only used by one patient because of the risk that blood can be regurgitated into the insulin reservoir after injection. This significantly increases the potential of blood contamination and the spread of blood-borne pathogens, even when the needle is changed after each injection.

In a statement, the Long Island hospital said that there was an “extremely low” risk of infection and that they do not know of anyone who had been infected. Still, the hospital is recommending that any patients who believe they may have been placed at risk undergo testing for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. News reports indicate that about 200 of the potentially-affected patients have already signed up for free blood testing.

It is unclear why the hospital chose to use the pen injectors instead of disposable needles, but it says that it will now use single-use needles for insulin injections. Regardless, if someone contracts HIV or hepatitis due to doctor error or hospital negligence, they may have a valid medical malpractice case against the facility.

Source: Reuters, “New York hospital warns patients of possible HIV, hepatitis exposure,” Eric M. Johnson and Elizabeth Daley, March 13, 2014

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