NJ: 29 hepatitis cases tied to doctor

(AP) - Several thousand patients of a New Jerseydoctor should get tested for blood-borne diseases because of anoutbreak linked to his office that has led to more than two dozenbeing diagnosed with hepatitis

News 12 Staff

Sep 10, 2009, 1:23 AM

Updated 5,430 days ago

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(AP) - Several thousand patients of a New Jerseydoctor should get tested for blood-borne diseases because of anoutbreak linked to his office that has led to more than two dozenbeing diagnosed with hepatitis B, state health officials said.
In March, the state said five of Dr. Parvez Dara's patients werefound to have hepatitis B and that nearly 2,800 patients should gettested for it. There are now 29 positive cases, plus 68 others whotested positive for antibodies but cannot be definitely linked tothe outbreak, according to the state Health Department.
The state is aware of nearly 1,400 patients who have been testedso far.
On Aug. 12, state epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan sent a letterto 2,000 more patients and to patients in the first group who hadyet to get tested urging them to do so.
In July, the department responded to an Associated Press openrecords request by declining to release any information about thetest results, citing the ongoing investigation. The departmentquietly released the test results on its Web site Sept. 1, nearlythree weeks after sending out the letter to patients.
Health Department spokeswoman Donna Leusner said theinvestigation is ongoing, but a report was prepared at the requestof the Board of Medical Examiners, which suspended Dara's licensein April.
A spokesman for Dara criticized the health department forreleasing the test results while the investigation is still open,saying it was a "rush to judgment."
"There are a number of possible medical reasons that explainwhy hepatitis B may have developed among patients - particularlythose being treated for cancer with chemotherapy," said Daraspokesman Tim White.
Health inspectors visited Dara's office in March and describedconditions there as unsanitary. The inspectors said they foundblood on the floor of a room where chemotherapy was administered,blood in a bin where blood vials were stored, unsterile saline andgauze, and open medication vials.
Inspectors also cited problems with cross-contamination of pens,refrigerators and countertops; use of contaminated gloves; andmisuse of antiseptics, among other health code violations.
Following the inspection, county health officials sent a March28 letter to Dara's patients warning them of the risk andsuggesting they be tested for the liver diseases hepatitis B andhepatitis C and for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
"Evidence gathered at this time suggests that since 2002, someclinic staff provided care in a manner that put patients at riskfor infection caused by bloodborne viruses, including hepatitisB," the Aug. 12 letter told patients. "The investigation to datesuggests that the hepatitis B infections identified may beassociated with the method by which medications were administeredand procedures performed at the practice."
Dara, originally from Pakistan, has been practicing at his TomsRiver office for 23 years and has been a licensed oncologist in NewJersey since 1980. He estimated that he saw 45 to 60 patients aday, with about a dozen receiving chemotherapy each day.


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