Testing advised for dental clinic participants after Hepatitis B cases
Three patients and two volunteers developed cases of acute Hepatitis B after the June 26-27, 2009 Mission of Mercy (MOM) free dental clinic at Hedgesville High School.
Notification letters are being sent to all MOM clinic patients, staff and volunteers that the West Virginia Bureau of Health is advising that they be tested for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV as a precaution.
All clinic staff and volunteers who were involved in direct patient care or who had contact with the medical equipment or the patient care environment should be tested for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.
While officials feel the risk of exposure is probably small, they felt it
important to notify everyone who attended the clinic and encourage them to be tested.
The letters are going to 1,137 patients and 826 volunteers. Most
are from West Virginia, but people also attended the two-day clinic
from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Washington, D.C.
While no evidence of Hepatitis C or HIV transmission at the clinic
was found, testing for these viruses is also recommended since they have the same blood-borne routes of transmission, Morgan County Health Department Administrator Lee Fowler said.
It hasn’t been determined yet whether the five participants contracted Hepatitis B at the clinic or whether they had it prior to the clinic, Fowler said. Hepatitis B is spread by blood or body fluids.
“We’re not expecting any positive results for Hepatitis C or HIV,
but it’s good to test for it anyway,” he said.
Fowler noted that people who have received the Hepatitis B vaccine are immune to it and they don’t need to be tested.
People who participated in the dental clinic have the option of being tested at a free Hepatitis B testing clinic that is being held at Martinsburg High School on Thursday, June 17 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Those who wish to do so should call the Berkeley County Health Department Hepatitis B hotline at 304-263-4446 and tell them that they plan to attend. They should also take their notification
They can also be tested for the viruses or receive counseling through their primary care provider or their local health department.
The Morgan County Health Depart-ment will also be providing testing for those who attended the dental clinic, Fowler said. They were currently waiting for testing supplies to arrive from the state.
Fowler said on Monday that they had 14 calls regarding the Hepatitis B outbreak that was linked to the dental clinic.
The Hepatitis B cases were reported in November, according to information posted on the Berkeley Health Department website. The resulting investigation which involved health officials in surrounding states found no additional cases.
The five people with Hepatitis B have all been treated and have
completely recovered from the disease with no long-term complications, Fowler said. There haven’t been any other cases since November, he said.
Fowler said that those who attended the free dental clinic and want to be tested can call the Morgan County Health Department at 304-258-1513. They will take their name, telephone number and make an appointment for the testing.
Anyone who has questions or concerns about being exposed to Hepatitis B can also contact them.
The health department also offers vaccinations for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, Fowler said.
About 75 Marylanders attended the MOM dental clinic as patients
and an additional 55 people from the state volunteered, said David Paulson, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene communications director.
All local health departments in 24 jurisdictions will be prepared to do screenings for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV for those who attended the clinic or who were concerned that they may have been exposed to the viruses through this exposure, Paulson said. People can also go to their doctor to be tested.
They expected testing results to be negative, but felt it was better
to be safe and have everyone tested, he said. Paulson advised people to
call their local health department.
Washington County residents can call the Washington County Health Department at 240-313-3200 with questions or to make an appointment for the testing.