Public Health investigating ‘cluster’ of reported hepatitis C cases at local pain clinic

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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is working with Universal Pain Management on Kelly Johnson Parkway to notify a group of patients about a possible hepatitis C virus exposure. 

Public Health is notified any time someone tests positive for hepatitis C, Lance Jackson, CEO of the pain clinic, said in a phone interview Wednesday. He said the facility notified approximately 140 clients, sending them a letter that was drafted by Public Health, regarding the situation.  

The Department of Public Health issued a statement Wednesday that said everyone who came through UPM’s doors between July 7 and Aug. 5 should get tested. 

“Universal Pain Management is sending letters and electronic messages to patients to inform them of their potential exposure to hepatitis C, provide information about hepatitis C and instructions on how to obtain testing at their private providers,” according to the Department of Public Health. “Public Health will also offer testing free of charge for patients who do not have ready access to a private physician.” 

Public Health identified the incident as a cluster of cases, but when asked how many that entailed Wednesday, a spokesperson replied, “We can’t give out that detail for an ongoing investigation.” 

Jackson said the facility conducted an “intense investigation” to determine the etiology of the transmission, and that he was still working to determine how it had occurred. He said he had only been notified of one patient, and called it “an isolated incident.” 

“This is something that transpired that’s been extremely concerning to us,” said Jackson. “Their concern is our concern,” he added, referring to Public Health, “we want to make sure it never happens again.” 

Jackson described the services offered at Universal Pain Management as running the gamut from medication management to the implantation of spinal cord stimulation devices.

Jackson expressed confidence that UPM had contacted anyone who was in the facility during the time frame given by Public Health. However, anyone who has any questions can contact DPH at 213-482-4856. 

One of the challenges in identifying a potential hepatitis C outbreak is that most who are infected will not experience symptoms, according to the Public Health website, which notes that the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common bloodborne infection in the United States. 

“The RNA virus is predominantly transmitted through contact with contaminated blood and blood products via injection drug use,” the site states, adding, “Symptoms of acute infections can include jaundice, fatigue, anorexia, nausea or vomiting; however, up to 85% of acute infections have mild or no symptoms and usually go undetected.” 

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