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Ogden Hospital Alerts 4800 Patients of Possible Hepatitis Exposure

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A nurse fired from an Ogden hospital last year is believed to be connected to one person infected with hepatitis C and could have exposed thousands more.

The nurse, 49-year-old Elet Neilson, also known as Elet Hamblin, lost her job in November last year after she admitted to stealing drugs from McKay-Dee Hospital’s emergency department. In the past two months, the Utah Department of Health determined that the former employee and a patient treated at McKay-Dee at that time had the same rare strain of hepatitis C. Hospital spokesman Chris Dallin says there is a chance that those cases are related, but the investigation is ongoing.

On October 30th, Dallin says the hospital sent letters to 4800 patients who may have been exposed to the virus, encouraging them to receive a free blood test.

“We identified that anyone that had any remote possibility of coming into contact with the employee, developed that list and sent the letters out as quickly as possible,” Dallin says.

Dallin says the chances of patients contracting the virus is low, but it’s important that patients who receive a letter get tested. They may have no symptoms, but they could transmit the disease to others. Angela Dunn works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is stationed at the Utah Department of Health. She says hepatitis C is transmitted through the blood, and in a hospital setting, that can happen through contaminated drugs or the instruments used to administer those substances.

“Just knowing that someone has been diverting drugs is a risk factor for infectious disease transmission to patients,” Dunn says. “So that’s where public health stepped in to try to identify if there are any more patients at risk.”

Chris Dallin says he’s encouraged that the systems at McKay-Dee Hospital to track controlled substances were able to identify the issue and that they terminated the employee in this case.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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