Thousands may Have Been Exposed to HIV, Hepatitis at NJ Hospital
It was a harrowing holiday season for more than 3,000 patients who were treated at a New Jersey surgical center after they were told they may have been exposed to HIV and hepatitis at the facility.
People who underwent surgery at the HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, between January 1, 2018, and September 7, 2018, are being encouraged to be tested for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. This is because “deficiencies in infection control” in the center’s cleaning and medication injection processes put them at risk.
As of December 26, 3,778 patients treated at HealthPlus had requested to take a blood test. The center’s administrator, Betty McCabe, said in a statement that no infections or illnesses had been reported thus far.
All 3 illnesses cause no symptoms at first, and acute symptoms can easily be mistaken for the flu or cold if they appear. There is currently no cure for AIDS, the disease caused by the HIV virus, but it can be managed with lifelong antiviral medications. Hepatitis B and C can become chronic silent infections. Left untreated, the illnesses can permanently damage the liver and lead to cancer. 
HealthPlus Surgery Center was shut down in September after the New Jersey Department of Health found that employees were not following proper sterile processing procedures or regulations for the dispensing or storage of medication. The center reopened September 28. 
“We have taken this issue very seriously. The New Jersey Department of Health’s move to close the facility provided an opportunity to focus more intently on quality, safety, and a consistent adherence to sound policies and procedures.”
The center said it will cover the blood tests free of charge. Patients can visit specific locations in New York and New Jersey to obtain a test provided by the center, or they can visit their own doctor for the test, though doing so may require them to pay a copay or deductible. However, the center will reimburse patients who choose to get tested by their personal physician.