August 29, 2011 / 9:05 PM / 9 years ago

Clinic warns Wisconsin patients blood exposure possible

MADISON, Wis (Reuters) - A Wisconsin health clinic said on Monday it was notifying all 2,345 patients seen by a former employee over the past five years that they may have been exposed to blood-borne diseases such as Hepatitis or HIV.

The registered nurse who was certified in diabetic education saw patients at various Dean Clinic locations from 2006 to 2011, the vast majority in Dane County, clinic Chief Executive Dr. Craig Samitt said in a telephone interview.

“We are taking all precautionary steps to test all of the patients even though the risk level is low,” Samitt said, adding that Dean Clinic was “casting the net as broadly as we possibly can.”

The nurse involved in the case was certified to show diabetic patients how to inject insulin using an insulin pen and how to use a finger stick device when testing blood sugar levels, he said.

She changed needles after demonstrating the devices on patients, but it is possible blood could have adhered to the insulin pens or finger-stick devices, he said.

The insulin pens in question were intended to be used for demonstrations on objects, such as oranges, but not for use on live patients, he said.

Madison, Wisconsin-based Dean Clinic learned of the possible exposures earlier this month. It opened an investigation and notified state and local health officials.

Samitt declined to discuss details of the former employee’s departure from Dean Clinic, calling it a “personnel matter.”

The clinic said in a statement on Monday that patients potentially were exposed to blood-borne diseases such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. They began to notify the patients by telephone and letter on Monday.

The clinic’s investigation determined that it was an isolated incident, Samitt said.

The clinic, which has about 60 locations in southern Wisconsin, said it was retraining workers on the use of the devices and changing the way it observes clinical practices by its staff members.

Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Jerry Norton and Cynthia Johnston

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