A Cherokee Nation hospital in Oklahoma is testing more than 180 patients to detect HIV and hepatitis after allegations that a nurse reused syringes to administer medications.
The nurse violated the protocols by using the same vial of medicine and syringe to inject bags in WW Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, according to Cherokee officials. The nurse no longer works for the tribe, Tulsa World reported.
"We are a great government, and we have to do our due diligence to make sure things are handled properly," said Joe Byrd, a spokeswoman for the Cherokee. Tribal Council. "You can be sure that I will have my pulse on the situation"
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Researchers strongly recommend not to reuse syringes with intravenous bags, but say that the risk of transmitting a disease is low, according to a 2010 study from the National Biotechnology Information Center.
The risk of transmitting hepatitis B was less than 53 in 1 million, while the risk of transmitting hepatitis C was less than 4.3 in 1 million, according to the study. The risk of HIV transmission was approximately 0.15 in 1 million.
"The patients were never in direct contact with any needle," said Brian Hail, the hospital's director general. "The likelihood of bloodborne pathogens traveling to the lines in an IV bag or IV tube to cause cross-contamination from the use of the same syringe is extremely remote."
Still, hospital officials said patients who were treated at the hospital January and April should return for blood tests as a precautionary measure.
As of Monday, 64 patients had been tested and none tested positive. Authorities also continue to work to notify eight patients who should undergo the test, Hail said.