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Hepatitis C outbreak raises public health concerns in 8 states

A health care-associated hepatitis C outbreak in New Hampshire has left health officials in eight states scrambling to identify and test people who might have been exposed to the virus, which can be fatal if left untreated. Those states are Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC is helping investigate the situation, which the agency said could become one of the nation’s largest health care-related hepatitis C outbreaks. “Hepatitis C is a terrible illness, and viral hepatitis often doesn’t present any symptoms until there’s already damage to the liver,” said Melissa Dankel, a spokeswoman for the CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. “It’s a bad situation.” The suspected source of the outbreak is a former New Hampshire medical technician with hepatitis C who injected himself with syringes containing fentanyl that were meant for patient ...

Lawmakers blast Medicare for using Social Security numbers on IDs

House members sharply criticized the agency overseeing the Medicare program for not removing Social Security numbers from beneficiary identification cards, even though the practice exposes patients to identity theft. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services insists it is committed to protecting patient privacy. But changing the identification system would take up extensive cost, time and staff, a CMS official told the House Ways and Means Committee during an Aug. 1 hearing. CMS inaction on removing Social Security numbers from patient cards has frustrated lawmakers. The Government Accountability Office in 2002 had recommended that the agency use different identification numbers, and the House has adopted legislation in recent years mandating the change. The Veterans Health Administration and other agencies have removed Social Security numbers from their beneficiary cards, and CMS should be able to do the same, said Rep. Sam Johnson (R, Texas). He called on Tony Trenkle, CM ...

Most hospital adverse events not reported to state systems

Hospitals reported only 8% of the adverse events that they were required to share with state authorities, said a July study from the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have adverse-event reporting systems, although the reporting requirements vary by state. Of 35 adverse events the OIG had identified previously in these states, only three were submitted to a state reporting system. The OIG found that only one Maryland hospital had internal reporting of an adverse event — excessive bleeding that prolonged a patient’s hospital stay — and did not report it when required. “For the remaining 31 events, hospitals had no record indicating that staff recognized the event had occurred,” the OIG report said. “This suggests that the low rate of reporting to state adverse-event reporting systems is due largely to hospital staff not identifying incidents of harm as reportable events.” Yet many of t ...