Health officials insist on testing more hospital staff for hep C

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said it will do whatever it takes to follow through with recommendations to test additional Exeter Hospital employees for hepatitis C, after another patient tested positive last week, Seacoast Online reported.

However, the hospital doesn't think more employees should be tested, Exeter officials said in a statement last Thursday. The hospital is holding off on expanding employee testing because it lacks "specific evidence concerning why that testing is appropriate on a case-by-case basis."

As it continues to work with state health officials on the investigation, Exeter said it hopes both sides can protect hospital employee privacy rights while not creating unnecessary anxiety among the public.

The state health department wasn't pleased that it learned of the hospital's refusal to extend employee testing through the statement it released to the media. "We're waiting for Exeter Hospital to provide us that list," state epidemiologist Sharon Alroy-Preis told Seacoast Online. "What they have done is basically issued a press release."

Vowing to take all necessary steps to conduct a complete investigation, the state's associate attorney general noted legal action is always an option, according to the article.

The calls for more staff testing stem from a federal investigation of a traveling medical lab technician who allegedly caused a hepatitis C outbreak through injections across multiple hospitals and states, with the first reported cases at Exeter Hospital.

Meanwhile, four Maryland hospitals linked to the "serial infector" are offering free testing for hep C, according to statement from Sokolove Law.

For more:
- read the Seacoast Online article
- here's the Exeter statement (.pdf)
- here's the Sokolove Law statement