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Arizona county part of nationwide hepatitis C infection case

A medical technician who worked in Maricopa County between 2009 and 2010 is now the target of a national investigation claiming that he infected several of his patients with hepatitis C. While working in Arizona and other states as a member of a hospital's staff, authorities allege that the technician would use syringes on himself to inject pain medicine, but then would re-use the syringes on the hospital's patients. Some people in other states have already joined in a class action lawsuit, and other claims alleging hospital malpractice may follow.

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease, and a person infected with it may show few or no visible symptoms. In the long term, hepatitis C may cause scarring injuries, also called cirrhosis, on the liver. Scarring of the liver is a serious medical condition that carries with it potentially dangerous symptoms, including impaired liver function.

This medical technician appears to be facing federal criminal charges, and it is unclear whether he would be able to compensate the patients he infected. However, in Arizona, hospitals usually have a duty to ensure that all hospital staff -- not just doctors -- provide appropriate care. When a facility fails to do so, a person who suffered injuries as a result may wish to sue for hospital negligence. The injured patient may be able to get compensation from the hospital for the damage caused.

Both state and local health authorities are in the process of confirming whether and to what extent this technician infected patients in Arizona. They hope eventually to give clear direction to the public as to what actions concerned patients and other citizens should take.

Source: ABC15, "Arizona investigating 'serial infector' after hepatitis C outbreak," Corey Rangel, July 24, 2012

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