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Rising Hepatitis C in Nursing Homes Prompt Litigation, Fears

Additional confirmed cases of Hepatitis C have been linked to a nursing home in North Dakota that is currently the subject of a federal lawsuit alleging negligent care that led to exposure.

The new cases bring the total associated with this single nursing home to 47. This means the possible list of plaintiffs on the pending litigation, filed last year, could grow. The lawsuit started with two residents who say they contracted the disease as a result of poor care from facility staffers.

Hepatitis C is a contagious disease of the liver. Severity can range from mild to life-threatening and can be either acute or chronic. It is primarily spread through blood contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In nursing home settings, staffers who aren’t careful when placing IVs or sterilizing needles or other equipment could pass the disease from one patient to another.

Our Palm Beach County nursing home negligence attorneys know that while Hepatitis C in the U.S. is becoming more common (about 3.2 million people in the U.S. have the disease), many don’t know they have it in the earlier stages because they don’t look or feel sick.

This is why nursing home medical professionals and staffers must be vigilant when it comes to sterilization and other procedures in order to prevent unwitting spread of the virus.

Although federal and state health officials in North Dakota have been unable to zero in on the exact cause of the outbreak there, they posit it likely had to do with lapses related to blood services, nail care or foot care – or some combination.

The two men who originally sued, a 78-year-old and an 84-year-old, are seeking unspecified damages, and are expected to meet a deadline to file a motion for class-action status. That would allow others similarly situated to join the action and seek remedy as well.

Initially, the claim alleged negligence and consumer fraud. The latter allegation stemmed from the plaintiffs’ assertion the facility did not live up to its public promises. That count was later dismissed, though the negligence claim is still at issue.

Meanwhile, the nursing home has filed its own, third-party litigation against a health care provider with whom it contracted, alleging an employee who conducted blood draws was likely to blame. The health care provider has formally denied the claim.

Another troubling fact is that this kind of issue is not limited to a nursing home in North Dakota. A recent five-year study conducted by Columbia University School of Medicine discovered the prevalence of viral hepatitis in American nursing homes shot up by a staggering 48 percent during that time.

Compare that to the rate of urinary tract infections – by far the most common type of infection in nursing homes – which inched up by just 1 percent. The number of patients with pneumonia went up by 11 percent, and the number of those who contracted multiple drug-resistant organism (MRSA) increased by 18 percent.

The researchers noted the only infection that did not increase during that time was tuberculosis.

It’s worth noting that infections are one of the top causes of death and complications for nursing home residents. Unless management within nursing homes get serious about infection prevention in these settings, the problem is going to become exponentially greater as baby boomers age.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

More Plaintiffs in Hepatitis C Lawsuit Against North Dakota Nursing Home, Oct. 13, 2014, By Blake Nicholson, Insurance Journal

More Blog Entries:

Boler v. Security Health Care – Arbitration Agreement Invalid, Oct. 22, 2014, Palm Beach County Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

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