Hepatitis Investigation Finds Common Link - 8 News NOW

Edward Lawrence, Reporter

Hepatitis Investigation Finds Common Link

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Senior Epidemiologist Brian Labus told the board genetic testing will link to one person. Senior Epidemiologist Brian Labus told the board genetic testing will link to one person.
The state medical board filed temporary restraining orders against Dr. Dipak Desai and Dr. Eladio Carrera to prevent them from seeing patients. The state medical board filed temporary restraining orders against Dr. Dipak Desai and Dr. Eladio Carrera to prevent them from seeing patients.

The Southern Nevada Health District has linked the hepatitis C virus back to one person, on one day, for at least half of the confirmed cases.

This entire investigation started at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada on Shadow Lane. Seven of the eight confirmed acute cases of hepatitis linked to unsafe medical practices came from the clinic. There is now a criminal, federal investigation and a health district investigation.

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The health district says they can genetically link four of the hepatitis C cases to one person on September 21, 2007. Shock and outrage do not adequately describe the public's reaction to the massive investigation into unsafe medical practices at the Endoscopy Center.

"It's scary, and every time we have more numbers it just creates that mistrust," said health district board member Chris Giunchigliani.

Giunchigiani is also a Clark County Commissioner. She and her husband were among the initial 40,000 people notified that they may have been exposed to hepatitis C by the center. That news keeps her glued to the meetings when there is an update from the senior epidemiologist assigned to the case, Brian Labus.

He told the board genetic testing on the hepatitis strain in four of the eight confirmed cases will link to one person, but the health district has not found that person yet.

Labus also confirmed why two of the four doctors who own the centers under investigation have been barred from practicing medicine. The state medical board filed temporary restraining orders against Dr. Dipak Desai and Dr. Eladio Carrera to prevent them from seeing patients.

"Those are the two doctors who have the injunctions against them right now. They were the doctors who had treated the patients on that particular day," he said.

That day was September 21, 2007 -- where five people contracted hepatitis from the center.

Finally, Labus says access to the medical records confiscated by Metro has increased as they get more organized.

"It's those initial steps where some of the charts are starting to be organized and some of the records we can find a little easily now," he said.

Still, Labus says the records are only partially complete. Giunchigliani adds the health district will fight to force doctors to keep thorough records. She wants state lawmakers to create legislation making sure that happens.

Labus says in the next few weeks we will know if tens of thousands more people using other centers need to be notified of possible hepatitis exposure. He adds in the next few months, more cases will be linked to this center.

Email your comments to Reporter Edward Lawrence

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