Virginia Mason Hospital has recently begun to contact nearly 650 patients that could be exposed to hepatitis B in the dialysis unit. The risk to the blood-borne virus is “very low”, however, health authorities recommend screening for hepatitis B out of caution.

On Friday, in a news release, officials from Virginia Mason Hospital informed patients who received treatment in the dialysis unit over the past five years about the risk of being exposed to hepatitis B.

The health care center has contacted about 650 patients treated in the Virginia Mason’s dialysis unit since February 2011. Officials from the institution fear that some patients could be in contact with another dialysis patient who was hepatitis B positive.

Virginia Mason has sent a letter to about 650 patients who received kidney dialysis in the last five years telling them they may have been exposed to hepatitis B. Credit:

After a failure in the screening process of the dialysis unit was detected, Virginia Mason health authorities decided to notify the patients who were treated there. They wanted to alert them about the situation and encourage them to get tested for hepatitis B. The medical center has put at the disposal of patients assistance in the screening process.

Officials from King County health department detected the dialysis unit at Virginia Mason was properly screening and that the appropriately isolated procedures were not being carried out.

When a patient is found to be hepatitis B positive and needs to be treated in the dialysis unit, the individual receives the treatment in a private room, isolated from the communal environment of the dialysis unit.

Since 2011, the screening techniques were not consistent, and those patients who were hepatitis B positive and those who have not received dialysis treatment together and there is a risk of the virus transmission.

Although there is no evidence of high exposure to hepatitis B in the unit, the virus can be spread from person to person. As a result, Virginia Mason’s health authorities have notified patients to contact their care provider to determine they are not hepatitis B positive. T

he risk of transmission is minimum because of other prevention techniques were properly followed, yet, the announcement of Virginia Mason hospital is an act of responsibility towards every single patient who attended to the dialysis unit during the last five years.

At the moment, Virginia Mason institution has not been reported about cases linked to hepatitis B.

Health authorities are open to help with any questions or concerns from current or former dialysis patients at the Virginia Mason.

The risk of hepatitis-B exposure is “very low”

By mid-May, Virginia Mason health center realized there were some inconsistencies in screening practices. On this basis, hepatitis B-positive patients were not properly isolated while receiving dialysis treatment at the institution since 2011.

According to an assessment conducted by Public Health Seattle & King County and the Washington State Department of Health, in general, terms, infection control practices, such as infection-control safeguards, disinfection of the dialysis unit’s equipment and hand hygiene, were competent to prevent hepatitis B transmission. 

Virginia Mason health authorities have affirmed the hepatitis-B exposure is “very low”, but they have been asking patients to get tested for hepatitis-B out of caution. “The risk of exposure to hepatitis B was very low because of our other infection-control safeguards,” said the director of the Nephrology department at Virginia Mason hospital, Cyrus Cryst, according to a news release on their website.

Even if officials from the institution have stated that the risk of hepatitis-B exposure is very low, they encouraged patients who received dialysis at the health care center to contact their care provider for a medical checkup.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are informing patients of the situation, explaining there was a minimal risk of exposure for them and letting them know we are a ready resource for any questions they have. Patient safety is always our top priority,” said Cryst.

New electronic medical record in hepatitis B screening

Due to the lapse in testing practices at the dialysis unit, Virginia Mason alongside the Northwest Kidney Centers (current provider of dialysis services at Virginia Mason) is currently working to correct the screening process and improve patient safety measures.

Hence, the Virginia Mason hospital has equipped the dialysis unit with a new feature to the electronic medical record that orders now an automatic hepatitis B screening for dialysis patients. The feature allows unit’s personnel to be aware of the current hepatitis B status of each patient.

Further, the new feature to the electronic medical record warns the care team to isolate hepatitis-B positive patients while receiving dialysis treatment in the unit so that any future hepatitis B spread can be avoided.

Source: Virginia Mason Hospital