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7,000 possibly exposed to HIV, hepatitis at Ottawa clinic

world Updated: Oct 17, 2011 14:04 IST
Canadian health authorities

Canadian health authorities have warned that as many as 6,800 people who underwent an undisclosed procedure at an Ottawa clinic over the decade may have been exposed to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

Ottawa city's chief medical officer, Dr Isra Levy announced yesterday that Ottawa Public Health has been probing "an infection control lapse in a local non-hospital medical facility."

In a statement, Levy said that patients of the clinic will be notified of their potential exposure to disease early next week by registered letter.

The patients who will receive letters will have visited the clinic over a 10-year span dating back from spring of this year.

Jocelyne Turner, spokesperson for the City of Ottawa, said there is no indication that any patients have become infected.

However, it is the agency's duty to notify patients of their potential risk, she said.

In his statement, Levy said that the risk to the clinic's patients of contracting hepatitis B is less than one in a million, hepatitis C less than one in 50 million, while the risk of contracting HIV is one in three billion.

Ottawa Public Health will not name the doctor, the clinic or the procedure until all patients are notified.

"We don't want to alarm people because the procedure that's involved with this investigation, many other people in Ottawa have undergone this procedure in the 10-year span, so we don't want to cause additional concern," Turner was quoted as saying by Canadian Television News.

The doctor stopped performing the procedure in June.

The clinic came to the attention of Ottawa Public Health after a routine medical audit found "irregularities" in how it cared for medical equipment, Turner said.

She said Ottawa Public Health can't be sure when those issues began.

Ottawa Public Health investigated the clinic for three months, a probe that took so long because the agency chose to review records dating back 10 years.

The investigation was the "most extensive" ever undertaken by the agency, Turner said.