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Mayo Clinic Administrators in Florida Discuss Hepatitis Situation
  JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A technologist violated a "sacred trust," leading to his termination amid a hepatitis C investigation, and a police investigation into drug diversion.
In a news conference this afternoon, Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. John Noseworthy, Mayo Clinic Florida CEO Dr. William Rupp and Mayo Clinic Florida Chief Administrative Officer Bob Brigham said they learned that one of their own could be behind the transmission of the disease into at least three patients.
Late Tuesday, Mayo Clinic Florida released a statement saying the employee, who has yet to be named, has been terminated for his role in drug diverting, which Rupp described as taking a narcotic drug in a syringe and injecting himself, then replacing the needle and filling the syringe with saline for patients' IV lines.
"A minuscule amount of blood" is all that is needed to remain on the syringe, whether or not the needle is replaced, to allow for transmission of any communicable disease, Rupp said today.
Rupp also explained the three-and-a-half-year process that led to Tuesday's discovery.
In 2007, he said, Mayo Clinic Florida discovered "several cases" of patients with hepatitis C. Each had been negative for the disease prior to their treatment, leading doctors to suspect it was a "healthcare acquired infection." None of their tests were able to isolate the source, though, until more cases cropped up.
Then, Mayo Clinic Florida began a months-long process of genetic testing, which revealed that at least three of the cases were identical, Rupp said. After tracing the steps of the three patients, doctors identified 23 people they may have all encountered, and tested all 23 for hepatitis C. One came back positive.
The man, an interventional radiology technologist, was immediately removed from contact with patients and placed on leave, Rupp said.
The man then admitted diverting drugs and told investigators he did it during busy times, which made him less noticeable.
Of the three confirmed cases, one has died from an unrelated illness, another's death may be related, and the other is alive, said Rupp.
He added that he has spoken to the w idow of the potentially related victim and to the surviving patient. An investigation is ongoing to determine if any other patients may have come into contact with hepatitis C.
Any Mayo Clinic Florida patients who are concerned can call toll-free 877-956-1768.
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