|Doctors performing surgery illustration|
An immigrant doctor was found to have infected several patients at a U.S. hospital with hepatitis during surgery, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials.
A doctor with hepatitis B, who performed joint replacement surgery, unknowingly passed the virus to at least two of his patients, according to the new report.
The report, published by researchers at the University of Virginia Health System, said the surgeon first realized that he had hepatitis B after being pricked with a needle.
After that incident, the doctor underwent routine testing for blood-borne diseases. The surgeon had emigrated from a country with a high prevalence of hepatitis B, and probably had chronic hepatitis B for a while without showing symptoms, which include fever and nausea.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the surgeon's hospital launched a joint investigation to identify and test all patients the surgeon has treated over the past nine months, the time he had worked at the hospital. Most patients had undergone either hip or knee replacement surgery.
Out of 232 patients that were tested, two were found to be infected with the hepatitis B virus that
was genetically identical to the surgeon, so it is highly likely that these two patients got the virus from this physician. These patients were treated with drugs.
Six other patients were also found to have been infected with hepatitis B in the past. Because these patients have not had hepatitis B present in the blood, the researchers could not determine whether the virus was transmitted by the surgeon. Because these patients have no known risk factor for the development of hepatitis B, it is possible that the virus may have entered their system through the surgeon in question.