por Lynn Shapiro
, Writer | April 20, 2009
The Veterans Administration (VA) is trying to find out why veterans who had colonoscopies at three VA hospitals later developed hepatitis and HIV. The agency has not conceded what seems to be the common assumption: that the hospitals failed to properly sterilize their equipment.
"As of April 1, 17 veterans have tested positive for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV virus," the VA reported in a press release on its website. "Five veterans tested positive for hepatitis B virus; 11 for hepatitis C; and one for HIV."
The hospitals responsible for the infections are in Murfreesboro, TN, where patients were infected from April 2003 to December 2008; the Augusta, GA, hospital, where patients were infected from January 2008 to November 2008; and the Miami hospital, where patients were infected from May 2004 to March 2009, the VA said.
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VA officials contend "these results do not indicate that there is any relationship between these patients' conditions and the endoscopy procedures they underwent. However, VA is conducting an epidemiological investigation to look into the possibility of such a relationship," the agency says.
The situation could worsen. Associated Press reported the VA doesn't yet have results from most of the 10,000 veterans urged to get blood tests because they might have been infected.
The VA's press release goes on to say that "while reviews indicate that the transmission of hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus as a result of endoscopy procedures is extremely small and that transmission of HIV through endoscopy has never been reported, VA will appropriately counsel and care for these patients, no matter what the source of their infections may be."
Sources: Veterans Administration, Associated Press