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4 More Hepatitis C Cases Confirmed In NH Outbreak

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Exeter Hospital. (WBZ-TV)

Exeter Hospital. (WBZ-TV)

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EXETER, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire health officials have confirmed four more cases of hepatitis C as they continue to investigate an outbreak linked to Exeter Hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab.

Altogether, 31 people have tested positive for the same strain of the disease since the investigation began in late May. State officials suspect a worker’s misuse of drugs led to the outbreak.

Anyone who was treated at the lab since October 2010 has been asked to get tested, either at the hospital or at alternate sites in Hampton and Portsmouth.

In addition to the 31 cases, 12 people have been identified with a hepatitis C strain that does not match the one identified from the outbreak, said Jose Montero, state director of public health.

“These results do not require us to change the timeline for testing,” he said, adding health officials are trying to reach about 50 patients from the cardiac catheterization lab list who still need to have their blood drawn for testing.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne viral infection that can cause liver disease and chronic health issues.

A number of lawsuits have been filed against Exeter Hospital. At the start of July, almost 60 former patients of the hospital had filed suit. Of those, at least 47 patients have signed on to a class-action lawsuit, as well as 12 others who have each filed individual lawsuits.

The hospital has not commented on the lawsuits or on a criminal investigation.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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