Published on June 18, 2007 at 4:32 AM
Health authorities in New York are warning 4,500 people that they may have been exposed to hepatitis C.
Three patients who were treated by an anesthesiologist have now been diagnosed with the disease and authorities at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are urging as many as 4,500 patients to be tested for hepatitis because they were treated by the same doctor.
Those thought to be at risk were treated by the anesthesiologist between December 1, 2003, and May 1 of this year and will receive a letter describing the situation and urging them to get tested for hepatitis C.
The name of the anesthesiologist has not been released and the Health Department says the doctor is not guilty of any wrong doing and has had a medical license since 1977.
According to Dr. Marci Layton, the agency's assistant commissioner for communicable disease, the transmission of hepatitis in a medical setting is rare and the warnings are a precautionary measure.
The Health Department says a wide variety of procedures took place in 10 outpatient settings in Manhattan.
Hepatitis C is a virus contracted through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person, and though it often does not cause symptoms early on, it causes liver damage.
It is unclear whether the unidentified anesthesiologist is infected but it seems the infected patients contracted the virus via an intravenous tube.
According to Health department officials they began their investigation in March, when the first case was brought to their attention; it is mandatory that medical professionals notify the Health Department when a patient tests positive for hepatitis C.
Any disciplinary action which might be instigated will apparently be undertaken by the state health department.