More than 1,000 patients may have been exposed to HIV, other viruses after sanitizing error

(CNN) — More than a thousand surgical patients at Goshen Hospital in Indiana may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B after an error in the sanitizing procedure for surgical equipment, according to a press release from Goshen Health.

One step in a multistep cleaning process was missed by a technician, possibly contaminating the surgical equipment, said Liz Fisher, marketing specialist for Goshen Health.

The hospital identified 1,182 surgical patients between April and September of 2019 who may have been impacted, Fisher said.

Those who may have been exposed were sent notification letters and are being offered free testing for the viruses, according to Fisher.

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by a blood-borne virus and is usually spread by sharing needles or equipment to inject drugs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Hepatitis B is also a liver infection caused by a blood-borne virus but is spread when bodily fluid is passed from an infected person to someone who is not infected, according to the CDC. HIV — human immunodeficiency virus — weakens a person’s immunity system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection.

The hospital maintains that those patients who may have been affected constitute a “small subset,” that the risk of exposure is “extremely low,” and that the free testing for the viruses is being offered “out of an abundance of caution.”

“While our sterile processing and infectious disease experts believe that the potential transmission of blood borne viruses between patients is extremely remote, out of an abundance of caution, we want to verify through lab blood tests that patients have not been harmed,” a November 20th health update from the hospital’s president and chief medical officer said.

A call center has also been set up for patients to ask questions and schedule testing, the press release states.

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