ER Nurse Causes Hepatitis C Outbreak at Utah Hospital

ER Nurse Causes Hepatitis C Outbreak at Utah Hospital
Science & Medicine

The Utah Department of Health is urging people who were treated at McKay-Dee Hospital and Davis Hospital between June 17, 2013 and November 25, 2014 to get tested for hepatitis C after it came to light that 7,200 people may have been exposed to the disease at the facilities

Health officials say the patients may have been exposed to the “outbreak” after coming into contact with 49-year-old nurse Elet Neilson, who contracted a rare strain of the disease, genome 2b. Both that strain and a different variation of hepatitis C have been identified through testing.

Both hospitals are offering free testing through the end of January. Mckay-Dee Hospital, in Ogden, and Davis Hospital, in Layton, both employed Neilson. The former emergency room nurse was fired for allegedly stealing medications from the hospitals and using them. She pleaded to a misdemeanor for possession of a controlled substance and paid a $413 fine. Neilson served no jail time.

“We do consider this an outbreak,” Angela Dunn, a physician with the Utah Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Standard Examiner. “When we have two or more hepatitis C-related infections, we consider it an outbreak.”

The hospital sent letters offering free testing to anyone who may have come into contact with Neilson, but so far only 35% of the 7,200 individuals have come forward, Dunn said.

“We’re hoping for about half at the end of the day, but we only have a few weeks left of free testing,” Dunn said. [1]

Davis Hospital released the following statement:

“Davis Hospital and Medical Center is working closely with the Utah Department of Health in the investigation. Currently, we have had nearly 50% of all those exposed tested. We have worked diligently to make contact with those affected to ensure that appropriate testing is being done. We highly encourage each person to be tested before the end of January. Together with the Department of Health we will release numbers at the close of the investigation.” [2]

Angela Dunn said:

“So we don’t know exactly how it happened; all we know is we have two cases that are related. And one of the cases is a healthcare provider that was working in the emergency department and fired for using medications illegally.”

A routine blood donor who tested positive for the disease – the CDC refers to him as the “index patient” – turned out to be the missing link who helped health officials connect the dots.

The hepatitis C showed up in the individual’s routine blood screening at the blood bank.

“This person had no risk factors, so we looked into his medical history and identified his visit at the McKay Dee medical center as his only risk factor. And then having been treated by this healthcare provider who also had hepatitis C and was diverting drugs.” [4]


[1] Fox News

[2] Good4Utah

[3] KUTV