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Surgical Tech Linked to 19 Hep C Cases in Colorado

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Colorado health officials have linked 19 cases of  hepatitis C to one surgical technician who  allegedly swapped sterile Fentanyl syringes with dirty—potentially hepatitis C-contaminated—saline-filled syringes.  According to the Associated Press, all of the hepatitis C victims had surgery at Rose Medical Center.

Yeserday, Kristen Diane Parker,  26, was indicted on 42 counts by a federal grand jury, 21 counts of product tampering and 21 counts of obtaining a controlled substance by deceit, reported the Denver Post. These charges, said the Denver Post, only relate to Parker’s alleged activities at Rose. Parker was also charged with three criminal counts earlier in the month that were connected to stealing Fentanyl, the Denver Post noted.

“Nineteen people tested positive for hepatitis C who had surgery at Rose Medical Center, have the same genotype as Parker, and did not have hepatitis C prior to surgery,” said Jeffrey Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Colorado, quoted the Denver Post. This development, said the Denver Post, represents the first direct link between the contamination and Parker.

Hepatitis C is spread by contact with infected body fluids, especially blood. The disease attacks the liver, and can lead to cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C and the disease can be fatal. The disease is incurable, but can be treated.

Parker worked at Rose from Oct. 21 to April 13 and at Colorado Springs’ Audubon Surgery Center from May 4 until June 29. Parker also worked at Christus St. John Hospital outside Houston, Texas between May 2005 and Oct. 2006, the Associated Press previously reported.  She also worked at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York’s Mount Kisco between Oct. 8, 2007, and Feb. 28, 2008. Investigations continue in all three states and patients continue to be tested.

Although Parker alleges, through her attorney, that she did not know she was infected with hepatitis C at the time the crimes were committed, the Associated Press previously reported that Parker tested positive with the virus before she began working at Rose, but that Parker never followed-up on the diagnosis. Prior to the indictment, a federal magistrate ordered Parker jailed without bond, saying she switched the needles even though she knew she had hepatitis C, the AP said. The Denver Post noted that Parker was told at a pre-employment exam at Rose that she was likely infected with hepatitis C and Parker, herself, told police she shared needles when she used heroin.

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