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People Potentially Exposed to HIV and Hepatitis Due to Med Students’ Errors

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Errors by medical students hosting a Diabetes Testing event at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque on April 24, 2010, may have exposed participants to certain diseases, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV, by contact with infected blood.

Students from the University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Program volunteered at the Center’s American Indian Week “Pueblo Days” event offering free blood sugar tests. Despite faculty supervision, UNM said that they made three mistakes, including: using the wrong device, lack of proper training with the device and failure to keep records of participants tested.

UNM School of Medicine says the students used a device intended for individual patient use at home, and not for a healthcare setting, to obtain drops of blood for glucose testing. Because intended for an individual patient’s use, the needles, or lancets, in the device do not change automatically. Even if the needle is changed, the design allows blood to contaminate the head of the device that may still expose another user.

The school estimates that 51 to 55 persons participated in the diabetes testing, however they cannot contact potentially exposed participants to tell them of the dangers because students kept no record of participants at the event. According to USA Today, more than 1,600 people attended “Pueblo Days” from across the nation and abroad — including Canada, Italy, Sweden and Germany.

Using rates in which where healthcare workers had injuries from infected needles, the University estimates the risk of transmission of the following in the glucose testing situation is less than:

- Hepatitis B: 0.37%, or around 1 in 270;

- Hepatitis C: 0.05%, or around 1 in 2000;

- HIV: 0.003%, or around 1 in 30,000.

“UNM School of Medicine deeply regrets this error and wants to apologize to all those who may have been exposed, and to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center,” the school said on their website. “We are asking that those who were tested come forward so we can better assess any risk from this episode and assure that exposed persons receive appropriate follow-up testing and care. If you know someone who was tested please contact us.”

Persons who think they may have attended this event and had blood glucose testing may contact UNM through a toll-free telephone line at 1-888-899-6092 or through a website at http://contact.health.unm.edu

UNM School of Medicine will offer the participants testing, counseling, follow-up, and treatment, if indicated, at UNM Family and Community Medicine clinics or through the patient’s personal provider.