Parties have reached a confidential settlement concerning the nation’s largest hepatitis C outbreak in 13 years, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The site of the outbreak was in Trinity Health’s hospital in Minot, North Dakota and the former ManorCare nursing home. Trinity operates medical facilities in 10 northern North Dakota cities.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) can cause serious liver damage or death. The North Dakota outbreak began in August 2013, when 52 people, including 48 residents or former residents of ManorCare, became ill. Victims launched a federal lawsuit in April 2014, seeking compensation for expensive drugs used to treat the disease and unspecified damages for economic harm, personal injury and the wrongful death of at least three people.
State and federal health officials suspect the outbreak might have been associated with blood services provided to ManorCare residents, but didn’t pinpoint an exact cause. In 2016, reported Fox News, “21 victims and the nursing home joined in a separate lawsuit in state court alleging that an employee of Trinity’s outpatient laboratory service reused needles and didn’t follow infection control practices, causing the outbreak. “Through an epidemiological analysis, statistical information suggested that Hepatitis C may be associated with blood drawing services through an agreement with Trinity Health or nail care services by ManorCare.”(minotoutbreak.com).
ManorCare alleges that Trinity fraudulently blamed the nursing home for the outbreak, hurting its business and leading to the sale of the nursing home to a Wisconsin-based partnership last year at a price far below its true value. Trinity disputes that.
According to the CDC, from 2008 to 2015, there were 33 hepatitis C outbreaks (defined as two or more people falling ill), likely caused by patient-to-patient, healthcare-associated transmission. The spread of the HCV from one person to another in healthcare settings is rare, but can occur. In a healthcare setting, this contact is primarily through contaminated needles, syringes, or other sharp instruments.