Clarification: As reported, the male who contracted Zika did so while traveling out of the country. Health district sources now say they do not believe it happened in Guatemala. (The I-Team is working to get the most accurate information. A health district spokeswoman pointed to patient privacy concerns when asked about specific cases.)
This is what health district employees have told the I-Team:
The health district has learned more about why it failed to notify the male patient who was infected. His test result indicating the infection was reportedly sent to the health district in the fall, but it was overlooked by lab staff, in part because of what was characterized as a “computer glitch”. When a secondary case of Zika was confirmed in December, the health district realized that a woman had become infected because of sexual contact with an infected male. Staff members began a search for test results for the primary patient. It was at that time they realized there had been a computer problem which contributed to their failure to notify the parties concerned.
“We did not know about the primary case until the secondary case came along,” a health district employee told the the I-Team. “Whether by accident or on purpose, employees are concerned about potential public health threats that the district is not addressing.”
Insiders with the Southern Nevada Health District told 8 News NOW the agency dropped the ball again when it comes to a new Zika case.
The I-Team’s George Knapp first exposed what employees, who have chosen to stay anonymous describe as a district plagued with problems. Now, health district employees say they believe a woman who’s pregnant became infected with the Zika virus because the health district failed to take action sooner.
Here’s what insiders are told the I-Team:
A man who had traveled became infected. The Southern Nevada Health District had a lab report, but it wasn’t reviewed in a timely manner because the health district is understaffed.
So, the man didn’t know and passed the virus to his partner since it can be sexually transmitted and now the woman is pregnant.
It is unclear whether the unborn baby is infected, but the Zika virus can have devastating and irreversible effects on a fetus. For example, it can cause brain problems and deformities like a small head.
The I-Team has received information on the health district from several whistleblowers. The whistleblowers have been employees who want to remain anonymous, so they can also keep their jobs.
“If we don’t have the appropriate knowledge at the right time, Zika could spread and move around,” one source said. In the meantime people will get bit, they will contract Zika, they will pass it along sexually, then people will get pregnant, and there will be harm to children.”
On the health district’s website, there is a female adult listed as the first non-travel related Zika case. The case before that involved a man who traveled to Guatemala. That was nearly two-month delay to confirm Zika. Insiders told 8 News NOW this was the couple in which the man infected his partner.
8 News NOW reached out to the health district for more information on testing and Zika. A spokeswoman pointed to protected patient information concerns, and in response to our question about a timeline for Zika testing, the I-Team received a vague answer not identifying a specific timeline.
The I-Team has obtained internal emails, in which one health district employee raised the alarm about a newer policy to leave lab specimens over the weekend to increase cost efficiency, but that employee’s input was called inappropriate by her superiors.
Insiders describe the Southern Nevada Health District as understaffed, dysfunctional and ultimately it’s said to be putting public health at risk.