Hepatitis C outbreak tied to nuclear stress test

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Poor infection control may be source of hepatitis C contracted during nuc stress tests. Image source: Cardiovascular Medical Group of Southern California  

An outbreak of hepatitis C in Scotland County, N.C., may be tied to suspected unsafe medical practices during nuclear stress tests at a cardiology practice in the city of Laurinburg, according to the state medical board.

According to The Fayetteville Observer, Matthew Block, MD, a cardiologist at Scotland Cardiology and mayor of Laurinburg, agreed to quit performing the exams, according to an Aug. 27 disciplinary order from the state medical board. The state’s health department is investigating whether seven of Block’s patients were infected with the disease at the practice.

Hepatitis C can cause acute illness, but most often becomes a chronic condition that can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person.

The state health department has asked patients who had a nuclear stress test at Scotland Cardiology between June 25, 2007, and Aug. 26, to get tested by their doctor for hepatitis C and other infectious agents. The department said it would send letters to patients who had received the test.

The investigation into the hepatitis infections comes as Block is awaiting a hearing with the medical board over allegations that he inappropriately prescribed drugs to a family member and employees. The hearing is expected to take place Oct. 15, reported The Observer.