18 Murfreesboro VA patients have hepatitis

May 2, 2009

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says 18 patients treated at its hospital in Murfreesboro have tested positive for a form of hepatitis since the agency began an investigation into the use of improperly sanitized equipment in colonoscopies there.

Five have tested positive for hepatitis B, and 13 have tested positive for the hepatitis C. In addition, one Murfreesboro patient tested positive for HIV.

All of the patients received colonoscopies at the Alvin C. York Medical Center between April 2003 and December 2008. During that time, the VA has said, some colonoscopies were performed at the Murfreesboro hospital using tubes with valves that were not working correctly. The improper valves may have exposed patients to bodily fluids from previous patients.

The VA has insisted that it is impossible to know whether the positive test results are directly linked to problems with hospital equipment, and that the risk of catching a virus in this way is exceptionally low.

In all, more than 6,300 Murfreesboro colonoscopy patients received letters this year advising them to be tested.

Similar problems were discovered at VA medical centers in Miami and Augusta, Ga. Nineteen patients from those two centers have tested positive for viruses; four of those positive tests were for HIV.

— CLAY CAREY mcarey@tennessean.com

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