People treated at Dr. Thomashefsky’s office have tested positive for Hepatitis B, C and HIV
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD) announced Monday that patients of Dr. Allen Thomashefsky’s medical office should be tested for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.
In November, PHD received notice of a new case of Hepatitis C in one of Thomashefsky’s patients who showed no previous risk factors. Further investigation revealed numerous infection control breeches at Thomashefsky’s office, resulting in its closure in March. As of April 26, six of Thomashefsky’s patients have tested positive for Hepatitis C out of 240 patients, five of which are believed to be new cases.
According to a PHD press release, four of the six patients who tested positive for Hepatitis C received injections from Thomashefsky’s office on the same day.
“The new findings released today bring new urgency to the Health Department’s recommendation that any patients of Dr. Thomashefsky get tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV,” the press release states. “People infected with hepatitis C often have no symptoms. Testing is the only way to know if a person is infected.”
Often times they occur because individuals may not possess adequate knowledge on infection control practices, or sometimes because standards and modes of practice shift. Adhering to infection control practices, including injection safety, is key to safe patient care and protecting employees from infectious diseases. – PHD Disease Control & Prevention Programs Director Paige Batson
However, PHD Deputy Director Susan Klein-Rothschild said PHD cannot be certain if the newly infected patients were exposed to Hepatitis C in Thomashefsky’s office until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) completes molecular genetic testing.
“We do not yet have scientific confirmation that those who have newly diagnosed Hepatitis C acquired this virus from his [Dr. Thomashefsky’s] office,” Klein-Rothschild said in an email. “We await the results of molecular genetic testing from the CDC.”
Director of Student Health Dr. Mary Ferris said blood-borne viruses like Hepatitis C do not spread easily.
“These diseases … they usually require a significant blood exposure such as a deep needle puncture, not just a drop of blood on intact skin,” Farris said in an email.
According to Disease Control & Prevention Programs Director at PHD Paige Batson, infection control breaches like those found at Thomashefsky’s medical clinic happen because medical professionals are not educated in safe practices.
“Often times they occur because individuals may not possess adequate knowledge on infection control practices, or sometimes because standards and modes of practice shift,” Batson said in an email. “Adhering to infection control practices, including injection safety, is key to safe patient care and protecting employees from infectious diseases.”
Ferris said information explaining proper disease and infection prevention procedures is readily available to medical offices.
“An entire body of scientific knowledge is available to guide us in how to minimize the risk of spreading infections through both cleaning and prevention,” Ferris said in an email. “Health professionals specialize in setting up these programs and monitoring their success.”
Infection control breaches can occur at any time in a clinical practice. It is sometimes the little things that can place patients at risk from infection control breaches. – PHD Disease Control & Prevention Programs Director Paige Batson
According to Batson, even seemingly minor mistakes — like lapses in hand washing — in a medical office can cause infection control breaches.
“Infection control breaches can occur at any time in a clinical practice,” Batson said in an email. “It is sometimes the little things that can place patients at risk from infection control breaches.”
First-year electrical engineering major Millan Batra said the story of Dr. Thomashefsky’s medical office makes him wary of medical offices.
“I think it’s bullshit that they would let an infectious disease run rampant like that,” Batra said. “It means there were procedural problems.”
A version of this story appeared on page 3 of the Thursday, April 30, 2015 print edition of the Daily Nexus.